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Published on September 24, 2013

Advanced Single-Incision Robotic Surgery Ends Months of Pain

Ann AntonIt took Ann Anton months to find the cause of the pain in her stomach and terrible burning between her shoulders. In fact, her gallbladder had stopped working completely.

Both problems resolved when Anton had single-incision robotic gallbladder surgery at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland using the da Vinci® SI Surgical System. The outpatient procedure to remove her gallbladder caused minimal pain and almost no scar, and Anton was glad to get back to work just a week later.

A Mt. Pleasant resident, Anton teaches high school physical education, English and government/economics. Her work required good sleep and high energy, but for several months she did not have either. “I felt horrible,” she said. “I thought I had pulled a muscle in my upper back, but I also kept waking up in the middle of the night with heartburn.”

Thinking her back and stomach issues were separate problems, she went to her chiropractor for the back pain. Several sessions yielded no progress and X-rays showed no problem with her spine, so he suggested seeing her primary care physician.

Anton felt she needed a new primary care physician but could not find one that was accepting new patients. As more time passed the pain got worse.

“A friend of mine who had switched to MidMichigan doctors told me she was very impressed,” Anton said. “When her doctor’s office recommended a new physician they had heard good things about, I said, ‘Sign me up!’”

Thankfully, Internal Medicine Physician Aparna Vallabhaeni, M.D., was able to give Anton a prompt appointment.

“As soon as Dr. Vallabhaeni heard my symptoms, she recommended tests to check my gallbladder,” Anton said. This organ stores bile produced by the liver and releases it as needed to break down fats in our food. When the tests confirmed the doctor’s suspicions, she recommended General Surgeon Melwyn Sequeira, M.D.

“I’d never had surgery before, but Dr. Sequeira had previously done a biopsy on my thyroid,” Anton said. “He was very kind and compassionate, and made me feel so secure. When I found out he would be doing the surgery, I had no concerns at all.”

Dr. Sequeira specializes in da Vinci Robotic Surgery, including Single-Site™ da Vinci surgery for gallbladder disease. The robotic system translates the surgeon’s hand movements into more precise movements of small surgical instruments at the ends of robotic arms.

“For days before surgery, the pain was constant. I was so excited to be doing something for it, and felt very positive about having a minimally invasive procedure with just one incision,” she said. “My aunt had old-fashioned, open gallbladder surgery and spent a week in the hospital. My husband’s uncle had the arthroscopic version with four incisions, and his recovery was considerably longer than mine.”

Ann and her husband, Todd, arrived at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland at 5 a.m. for the 7:30 a.m. outpatient procedure.

“I didn’t know what to expect. It sounds funny to say it was enjoyable, but it was. Everybody was kind, friendly and professional. Everything about my procedure was smooth, fast and simple,” Anton said. “I’m really happy that surgical technology has come this far, and so grateful I could benefit from these wonderful advances.”

When Ann and Todd got back at home around 2 p.m., she went to bed and slept. That evening, she needed some ibuprofen and ice packs, but the next day, she had just half the pain, and by the third day, she didn’t need pain medication.

A week after the surgery in early April, Anton was back teaching at Clare Public Schools’ Pioneer High School. Dr. Sequeira said she could start being more active again after about a month.

“I feel great now. I’d had the problem for a long time and forgotten what it was like to feel so good,” Anton said three weeks after surgery. “The color is back in my face. I am able to eat exactly what I’ve always eaten. I used a little vitamin E on the scar, which is next to my bellybutton, and now you can hardly tell it’s there. I’m really looking forward to enjoying my summer activities pain-free.”

Currently, MidMichigan is also using da Vinci technology for ENT procedures, such as tonsil removal; gynecologic surgery, such as hysterectomies; and urological procedures including prostatectomy. For more information about the da Vinci system and the procedures performed at MidMichigan, visit www.midmichigan.org/davinci. Additional information about Dr. Sequeira may be found on his profile page.

Da Vinci is a registered trademark of Intuitive Surgical, Inc.