Susan B Robotic Surgery Repairs a Woman’s Dangerous Hernia

Susan was able to leave the hospital the day after surgery.

Susan Bombardier had just arrived home from a celebratory dinner for her husband’s birthday in February 2021 when waves of pain and vomiting brought her to her knees. The pain was so searing that the savory Italian meal she’d just enjoyed didn’t seem to be the culprit. But what was?

She and her husband, Richard, sought help at the Emergency Department at Community Medical Center (CMC). While Richard waited in a separate area due to pandemic safety precautions, doctors quickly performed imaging exams and other tests to determine why the 58-year-old Bayville resident’s pain was so intense.

As Susan lay in place for a CAT scan, she became aware of something strange: a huge lump underneath her navel. A former emergency medical technician, Susan thought this abnormality offered a clue to her diagnosis. Unknown to her, a sizable hernia—a gap in her abdominal wall—was dangerously squeezing a loop of intestine that had become trapped in the opening, blocking normal digestion.

“I was doubled over—and I’m someone who can get a filling in my teeth with no anesthesia because I have a high tolerance for pain,” says Susan. “But by the time I saw this giant, softball-sized lump, I just thought, ‘Get it out of there!’ I was in agony.”

Precise Treatment

Sergey Grachev, MD
Sergey Grachev, MD

Within minutes, Susan was whisked into the hospital’s operating suite. Speed was important: Any delay in treatment increased the risk of Susan’s strangled intestine losing all blood flow and requiring removal. She had mere moments to speak with CMC general surgeon Sergey Grachev, MD, before the surgery. He told her he planned to operate in a way that would solve the problem the least invasive way possible: robotically.

The robotic procedure would use advanced, precise equipment and require only a few tiny incisions, leading to less bleeding and pain, and a quicker recovery. Susan had undergone a traditional “open” surgery on her leg after a bad motorcycle accident in 2008 and wasn’t eager to have a similar experience. She was thrilled her trapped bowel and hernia could be repaired using a minimally invasive approach. Dr. Grachev suggested she might even go home the next day.

During the two-hour procedure, Dr. Grachev successfully untangled Susan’s intestine and returned it to its normal position. He then repaired the hole in her abdominal muscle with a piece of surgical mesh.

“In her case, we knew that robotic surgery would enhance our ability to repair the hernia,” Dr. Grachev says. “Recurrence of a hernia after robotic repair is less likely than after open surgery, which usually has a more prolonged recovery.”

Back to Normal

Dr. Grachev says using the robotic approach likely saved Susan’s delicate abdominal tissues from the cutting and manipulation often necessary in traditional open surgery. It also allowed the surgical mesh to be placed in an area not directly exposed to the bowel, reducing the risk of complications such as fluid collection or infection.

As Dr. Grachev had predicted, Susan was able to leave the hospital the day after surgery. Recovery made Susan even more grateful she’d had a minimally invasive robotic procedure. Even with no complications, the center-belly location of Susan’s four small incisions, one of which drained excess fluids, felt tender for a period of time but likely would have been painful longer with a traditional operation.

It was a happy day three months after surgery when Susan was able to get back on her Suzuki motorcycle and take a long ride. She’s hiking again, hasn’t required post-recovery monitoring and feels fortunate she sought care at a hospital with minimally invasive robotic surgery capabilities that could resolve her gastrointestinal problem quickly. “I’m feeling back to normal now,” she says.

The Many Uses of Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgery isn’t done by a robot but by a surgeon who controls the equipment’s movement. The robot offers greater visualization and flexibility than is possible with traditional surgery. Community Medical Center (CMC) has achieved accreditation as a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery by Surgical Review Corporation, which also has accredited surgeon Sergey Grachev, MD, as a Surgeon of Excellence in Robotic Surgery since 2018. Dr. Grachev uses proven and innovative surgical techniques and develops a treatment plan specific to each patient. CMC offers robotic surgery as an option for gallbladder surgery, general surgery and colon removal, as well as a variety of conditions.

  • OB/GYN: Robotic hysterectomy (uterus removal), myomectomy (fibroid removal) and endometriosis surgeries reduce blood loss in women who may already suffer from fatigue and other problems due to excessive menstrual bleeding. The technique also shortens hospital stays and helps patients get back to work quicker.
  • Urology: Robotic surgery can be particularly beneficial in procedures such as radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland) and total or partial nephrectomy (kidney removal) that involve sensitive areas of the body. Robotic prostate removal can enhance nerve-sparing techniques that help men retain sexual and urinary function after surgery.
  • Colorectal: Diseased sections of the large intestine or rectum can sometimes be removed robotically, minimizing the interruption of normal digestion and enabling patients to return to a regular diet more quickly after surgery.
  • Thoracic: In the chest area, robotic surgery has many potential uses, including removing diseased lung or esophagus tissue or tackling certain heart conditions. With smaller incisions, patients can return home more quickly and comfortably.

Learn more about robotic surgery at Community Medical Center.