AUSTIN, Texas — After having three children, Katherine G tried everything to get back to her physical shape before her pregnancies.
“The first one I mentioned was physical therapy. So I did that. Then I started talking to a bunch of different doctors and spoke to a couple plastic surgeons to see if there was anything they could do, and they all recommended the tummy tuck procedure, which involved very large scar from hip to hip,” she said.
Like 60% of women who have children, Katherine G suffered from diastasis recti, which is when the abdominal muscles separate after birthing children. Physical therapy can help, but for some, it’s not enough.
“It was just my core just wasn't as tight as I was used to, obviously, after three pregnancies, but I could notice a physical difference, and then the lower back pain was also because of lack of muscle in the abdomen area,” she said.
With physical activity being such a large part of Katherine G's life and mental health, she searched far and wide for an answer, even consulting various surgeons as far away as California. After a long search, she found Dr. John Abikhaled, who suggested a robotic diastasis repair surgery.
“He proposed this robotic surgery that only involved three small incisions, very low in the abdomen that you cannot see. And so, obviously, I was very interested in that and that’s the route that we took," Katherine G said.
Dr. Abikhaled says the operation allows him to stay outside the abdomen.
“Getting just on top of the muscle with the camera and those instruments. That allows me to bring the muscles back together with stitches, and then to reinforce that area with a mesh patch that we replace on top,” said Dr. Abikhaled.
A robotic surgery doesn’t mean that a robot is conducting the procedure.
“What’s happening is I’m sitting at a consul a few feet away from the table controlling these very agile instruments, controlling the camera, and it allows me to do very detailed, delicate surgery in that way. It eliminates any tremor. Also, my movements are scalable, so if I move an inch, the robot can move just half an inch," said Dr. Abikhaled.
With such a minimal residual scar and quick recovery time, both Katherine G and Dr. Abikhaled encourage other women to explore the option of robotic surgery.
“Full recovery was about six weeks, so not too bad. But after about a week or so, I was pretty back to normal. Still limited with lifting and doing certain activities, but for the most part, it was pretty easy recovery,” said Katherine G.
Dr. Abikhaled reiterates that recovery from robotic surgery is a lot faster because the incisions are much smaller.
“Usually, my patient will stay overnight at the hospital and go home the next day. They’ll be up and around right away. I want them to avoid heavy, heavy lifting for a few weeks, but as far as the normal daily activities, those can almost be resumed almost right away,” said Dr. Abikhaled.
Since Katherine G received the surgery, she’s already been skiing in Colorado, biking, fishing and staying as active as she was before her family grew.