Health: Robot-assisted hernia repair speeds recovery and eases pain

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WMC Health column

Dr. Timothy Johnson

An estimated 1 million hernia repairs are performed each year in the United States, making it one of the most common surgical procedures. Surgeons at Williamson Medical Center are using advanced, robot-assisted surgical techniques to help many of those patients avoid a large incision and have less recovery time.

Enhanced-view, totally extraperitoneal (eTEP) hernia repair is a minimally invasive procedure that involves using three-five small incisions to allow the insertion of robotic surgical tools to aid surgeons in the repair of a hernia, according to Timothy Johnson, M.D., a general surgeon at Williamson Medical Center. 

“This robot-assisted technique allows us to replicate the durability of a traditional open hernia repair procedure while offering the patient a faster recovery, less pain and less risk of infection than with a larger open incision,” he said. 

A hernia occurs when there is a defect in the body’s normal anatomy. These defects can occur anywhere but happen most often in the musculature of the abdomen, and commonly occur after a prior surgery. Hernias can be quite painful and in the most extreme of situations an organ, intestine or fatty tissue can squeeze through the defect and even get stuck there.

“Hernia repair involves returning the displaced tissues to their proper position and closing the defect of the hernia,” Johnson said. “That is often done using a surgical mesh that serves as a strengthening and supportive scaffold as the tissue regrows.

“The robot gives the surgeon amazing visualization of the surgical field so that we can perform very precise surgery in a small space.” 

According to Johnson, patients recover much more quickly and have far less post-surgical pain following the eTEP procedure. Most of them leave the hospital on the same day of surgery as well. 

“Patients experience less blood loss during the surgery, and often require very little pain medication following the procedure,” Johnson said. “Our patients are often surprised by how quickly they are able to recover and return to an active lifestyle free of pain.” 

Williamson Medical Center is a leading provider of surgical services in the region. Surgeons use the latest technology, like sophisticated robotics, to ensure that patients are met with the very best care. In 2020, Williamson Medical Center was named one of the best hospitals in the nation for patient safety by the Women’s Choice Awards.

About Timothy Johnson, M.D., M.S.

Timothy Johnson, M.D., M.S., is board-certified in general surgery and surgical critical care. He is a graduate of Albany Medical College in Albany, N.Y., and did his residency at New Hanover Regional Medical Center/South East Area Health Education Center in Wilmington, N.C. He is a surgeon with Williamson Medical Group and his office can be reached by calling (615) 435-7777.

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