NHS hospital team carries out first robotic-assisted hysterectomies for severe endometriosis in Sheffield

A surgical team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have successfully carried out the area’s first robotic-assisted hysterectomies for severe endometriosis.

The state-of-the-art surgery, performed using a robotic surgical system by a team of specially trained doctors, nurses and anaesthetists, could help hundreds of women suffering with severe endometriosis and other benign yet debilitating gynaecological conditions of the womb.

The NHS describes endometriosis as a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. It can affect women of any age, including teenagers.

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Katie Titman, 42, the first patient to benefit, said she was able to resume normal activities within a week of having a total hysterectomy – the removal of the entire womb and cervix – thanks to the robotic-assisted surgery.

The Sheffield Teaching Hospitals team who carried out the region’s first robotic-assisted hysterectomy for severe endometriosis.The Sheffield Teaching Hospitals team who carried out the region’s first robotic-assisted hysterectomy for severe endometriosis.
The Sheffield Teaching Hospitals team who carried out the region’s first robotic-assisted hysterectomy for severe endometriosis.

This compares to an average recovery time of six to eight weeks for traditional surgery, dependent on the type of hysterectomy undertaken, says the trust.

Katie said: “I was up and about, walking around and undertaking normal day-to-day activities within a week of surgery. It’s been much easier than I expected. I don’t feel like I’ve had major surgery at all. So far the pain from the endometriosis has been eliminated. It’s made my life so much easier.”

The multi-armed robot, which also speeds up the time taken to carry out the operation, has wrist-like instruments that enable the surgical team to perform intricate and delicate manoeuvres, including 360-degree rotation in tight spaces that surpasses what the human hand can achieve.

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Throughout the operation, the robot is controlled by the surgeon, who sits at a console near the operating table, with a magnified, high-definition 3D view of the surgical site on the screen in front, giving added benefit to the operating theatre team.

Katie Titman on a dog walk.Katie Titman on a dog walk.
Katie Titman on a dog walk.

Katie, from Lowedges, had lived with “horrendous pain” from endometriosis for most of her life, suffering with stomach pains and long-lasting heavy periods.

In 2013 she underwent a laparoscopy, which removed some of the endometrial tissue. She then went on to have monthly injections before now having a full hysterectomy. The robotic-assisted hysterectomy enabled surgeons to remove her entire womb and cervix through five incisions less than 1cm long on her abdomen.

Since having the robotic hysterectomy, Katie, who was “gobsmacked” when she saw the minimal scarring on her abdomen, has remained pain-free.

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As well as a quicker recovery, Katie was also full of praise for the hospital staff. “They were fantastic, so lovely and made me feel really comfortable,” she said.

The first robotic hysterectomies in April were led by consultant gynaecologist Karim Abdallah, who described the advancement as a “remarkable achievement” for women’s health.

“The successful introduction of this pioneering surgery is a great stride forward in improving the health and wellbeing of women living with benign yet debilitating gynaecological conditions.

"Sheffield is the first in South Yorkshire to deliver this cutting-edge surgery which is set to help young, active women who have suffered for many years with common gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis.”

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Symptoms of endometriosis can vary, says the NHS, as some women are badly affected, while others might not notice any symptoms.

However, common symptoms include pain in the lower tummy or back (pelvic pain), usually worse during a woman’s period; it can also cause period pain that stops people doing their normal activities; pain during or after sex; pain while going to the toilet during a period; feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea, or blood when going to the toilet during a period and having difficult getting pregnant.

The cause of endometriosis is not known but several theories have been suggested, including genetics, as the condition tends to run in families and affects people of certain ethnic groups more than others; a problem with the immune system, the body's natural defence against illness and infection; or endometrium cells spreading through the body in the bloodstream or lymphatic system – a series of tubes and glands that form part of the immune system.

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