Minimally Invasive Surgery
Gives Woman her Life Back
San Francisco attorney Leslie Leone learned a valuable health lesson when one doctor told her she had limited choices in dealing with abdominal growths that were sapping her strength, causing her waist
to bulge and creating unremitting pain.
The lesson – when it comes to major health decisions and the options don’t seem appealing, a second opinion can be life changing.
Leslie wouldn’t accept her doctor’s advice that she was not a candidate for laparoscopic surgery, in which miniature instruments are inserted into tiny incisions. This type of surgery causes less pain than conventional surgery, promotes faster healing and is followed by same-day release and rest at home rather than in a hospital bed.
Leslie says that before she found what she calls the “dream team“ of Andrew I. Brill, M.D., and his associates, “I had already consulted with two surgeons, and one of them told me no doctor could remove my fibroids (noncancerous growths on the uterine wall) with laparoscopic surgery.”
Dr. Brill, a gynecologist with Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation, is nationally recognized for his work in minimally invasive surgery. He practices at the Center for Advanced Surgical Options in Gynecology at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco.
He not only could, but did, surgically remove 14 fibroids through incisions measuring barely one-fifth of an inch. In the process, he painstakingly broke up and removed several growths that had calcified into bonelike lumps. All the while, he was working around scar tissue left after previous surgery. The fibroids were so extensive that it was necessary to remove the upper part of the uterus, a procedure known as a supracervical hysterectomy. In all, the surgery took four hours, but at the end, Leone was free of the growths that caused chronic pain in her right side, an enlarged abdomen that changed her waist size, pressure on her bladder and other organs, and heavy periods.
Success Story Might Not Have Happened
It was a surgical success story that almost didn’t happen.
As Dr. Brill explains, “In the United States, the majority of hysterectomies are done in a conventional manner,” in which the surgeon makes a 10-inch incision to gain access to the surgical site.
This approach does more than create unnecessary pain and risk of complications. It simply isn’t medically desirable, in the view of Dr. Brill, a staunch advocate of using laparoscopy (minimally invasive surgery) in virtually all gynecological procedures.
“Surgery in the older style (large incision, long recovery) results in a long time in the hospital, under bed rest, and a slower recovery. Eliminate bed rest and you eliminate risk,” he says.
He says women should do what Leslie did – refuse to accept “no” from a doctor without consulting an expert in laparoscopic methods. Leslie, who was living in Mill Valley at the time of her operation but has since moved to San Mateo, was sure she did not want conventional surgery. “Two years prior, I had a kidney removed,” she says, “so medical mishaps were not an option.”
She knew that conventional surgery put her remaining kidney at risk. That would have sentenced her to needing a kidney transplant or a lifetime of dialysis. When one physician told her minimally invasive surgery was not possible, she says, “I searched the Internet, found Dr. Brill, and knew I was on to something great.”
Danger to Kidney a Grave Concern
Dr. Brill takes up the narrative: “Her fibroids were devastating her life. But she did not want to take the chance of losing a second kidney. I told her minimally invasive surgery could be done. Many people come to me thinking this approach is not possible. The truth is, it’s not only possible, it’s preferable, as well as safer and less invasive.” Leslie at first preferred simple fibroid removal to a complete hysterectomy, but says that when Dr. Brill showed her a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) image, “It was clear, with 14 fibroids, that I needed more extensive surgery.”
On the morning of her surgery at CPMC, Leslie says, “Dr. Brill and his staff calmed my nerves and my family’s. Dr. Brill then put his arm around my shoulder and we walked into the surgery room together. In the operating room, as I was preparing to lie down, he asked me who my favorite singer was.” Moments later, the sounds of Adele, the English singer-songwriter, musician and multi-instrumentalist, filled the operating suite. Says Dr. Brill: “Everything went fine. It was a wonderful outcome, and major abdominal surgery was completely unnecessary. She has had a fabulous recovery and amazing gratitude.” Leslie was thrilled. “My life is completely back to normal,” she says. “Better than normal since two pounds of fibroids have been removed. I have my waist back and much more energy. Dr. Brill and his dream team are genius!”
10 Signs of Possible Fibroids
Fibroids are benign (noncancerous) growths in the muscular wall of the uterus. They are extremely common – some studies find they are present in 77 percent of women in their childbearing years. They appear after puberty and often shrink or disappear entirely after menopause.
Many women experience no symptoms from fibroids. Others encounter a variety of vexing symptoms (see list). It’s estimated that fibroids are the primary reason given for surgery in almost 200,000 hysterectomies and 30,000 myomectomies (surgical removal of fibroids while leaving the uterus intact) a year in the United States, at a cost of $2 billion a year.
Consult with your primary care physician or gynecologist if you experience:
- Excessive, painful or prolonged menstruation
- Bleeding between normal periods
- Unexplained pain in the lower back
- Unexplained pain in the pelvic region
- Unexplained bulging of the waistline
- Feeling of fullness or pressure in the lower abdomen
- Pain during intercourse
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Too frequent urination
We offer gynecologic surgery in Sutter location throughout San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma and Lake counties. Call 888-637-2762 to find a doctor near you.