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First single site, robotic-assisted hysterectomy in Victoria performed at DeTar Hospital

By Jessica Priest
April 1, 2014 at 7:04 p.m.
Updated March 31, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.


Victoria hit a medical milestone Tuesday, and some hope this accomplishment will show patients they don't have to travel far for quality care.

Dr. Philip Suarez performed Victoria's first single-site, robotic-assisted hysterectomy at DeTar Hospital North on Tuesday morning.

Robotic-assisted surgeries reduce a patient's average recovery time from six to eight weeks to two to three weeks because the incision is smaller, he said.

Suarez used the hospital's da Vinci surgical system to make a 1-inch incision at the patient's belly button.

Suarez put the instruments inside the patient.

He then directed the instruments from inside a console about 4 feet away from the patient.

The da Vinci surgical system shows a three-dimensional image that is 10 times better than the traditional method of performing a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus and possibly ovaries, said Suarez, 58.

"It's like, honey, I shrunk the doctor," he said.

Using the da Vinci, the uterus is removed through the vagina, Suarez said, adding he's performed about 400 robotic-assisted surgeries during his career.

This cuts down on a patient's recovery time.

"I've lost track of how many patients have gone back to work in a week and have actually used no pain pills for a hysterectomy," Suarez said of his previous hysterectomy surgeries, which were performed after making several small incisions.

The larger the incision is, the greater the pain and potential for other complications such as bleeding and infection, he said.

In bigger cities such as Houston, more doctors vie for time on the robots and are less skilled because of it, he said.

"They may only do two or three robots a quarter, whereas we're doing two or three robots a week," Suarez said.

Suarez was assisted by Dr. Terry H. Whitehouse, one of his partners at Victoria Women's Clinic.

Suarez specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. He graduated from Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

The Victoria Women's Clinic also has privileges at Citizens Medical Center, which has two da Vinci Si surgical systems, said Shannon Spree, the marketing director.

Spree said Citizens Medical Center has performed single-site, robotic-assisted general surgery and is going to be doing single-site, robotic-assisted hysterectomies in the near future.

Judith Barefield, DeTar Healthcare System's director of marketing, said the hospital is on its second da Vinci. The first one was purchased in 2010, and the hospital upgraded in 2013.

"We're currently negotiating the acquisition of a second robot," she said.

"We're always trying to be at the forefront of technology for the benefit of our patients," Suarez said. "If it wasn't better for the patients, we wouldn't do it."

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