Quick recovery with robotic hernia repair

A man enjoys the beach after hernia surgery

Glenn Stambaugh is a healthy, energetic 60-year-old who enjoys taking his workouts to the next level. Exercise has long been part of his daily routine, but he had to briefly pause his physical activity after hernia surgery.

It started when Stambaugh’s wife noticed a lump between his lower abdomen and upper thigh. He wasn’t concerned because it didn’t hurt, even when he did sit-ups and crunches. But his wife encouraged him to get it checked, so he made an appointment with his doctor.

Much to his surprise, Stambaugh was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia, which occurs in the groin area when pressure pushes the intestines through a weak spot in the muscle wall. It is more common in men than women. Hernias do not go away on their own and can only be repaired by surgery.

How hernias happen

Sometimes, inguinal hernias have no apparent cause. In other cases, they may occur due to elevated pressure in the abdomen, weak areas in the abdominal wall, vigorous exercise, pregnancy, or persistent sneezing or coughing.

Some people have no symptoms with an inguinal hernia. Others, like Stambaugh, may have only a lump in the groin area. It’s also common to experience feelings of discomfort, heaviness, burning or pain in the groin. Symptoms may increase when lifting, coughing, straining or standing for long periods of time.

Watching and waiting

At the time of his diagnosis, Stambaugh and his doctor had a detailed discussion about the appropriate treatment.

“My doctor and I came to the conclusion that since there was no pain, no other symptoms, and it wasn’t really keeping me from doing anything, there was no need to take any action at that time,” he said.

Stambaugh continued his usual activities and remained pain free, but when he went back to the doctor for a checkup the following year, the lump had grown larger.

That’s when he was referred to Dr. Matthew Smith, general surgeon with North Florida Surgeons, who practices at Baptist Medical Center South.

Minimally invasive surgery

Dr. Smith examined Stambaugh and asked probing questions about his symptoms and lifestyle. He determined that minimally invasive robotic surgery was the best treatment option.

“Not everybody is going to need surgery for a hernia,” said Dr. Smith. “But I think it's important to have an assessment and to discuss the pros and cons for each patient to figure out what is the best next step in their treatment.”

The da Vinci technology (the robot), which is controlled by the surgeon, is helpful with a variety of hernia surgeries by allowing smaller incisions, lower complications, faster recovery and reducing the chance of a hernia returning.

Robotic surgery offers patients a shorter recovery time, less pain and less risk of blood loss.

Reassuring care

Stambaugh said he had a seamless experience at Baptist Medical Center South.

“A week before my surgery I met with Dr. Smith and his nurse and they answered all my questions, which was very reassuring,” he said. “On the day of my surgery, they walked me through what was going to happen and told me what to expect. They were great through the whole process.”

The day of surgery, Stambaugh arrived at the hospital in the morning and was home by early afternoon.

“I didn’t have much pain,” he said. “I only took pain medication once or twice, and then I took ibuprofen for about five days,” he said.

Smooth recovery

The hardest part of recovery was following the doctor’s orders to take it easy for the first six weeks, according to Stambaugh. He was instructed not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk during that time, but was allowed to bike and go for walks.

Stambaugh is just over six weeks out from surgery and has resumed his workouts.

“I’ve got three quarter-inch incisions that are already starting to disappear and I am feeling great,” he said. “I’m ready to get back to my regular routine.”

To learn more about hernias or request an appointment at baptisthernia.com