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Surgery without a Scar

One morning in February, Karen Appel had such excruciating stomach pain that she went to Virginia Hospital Center’s Emergency Department.

“I’ve given birth to four children and this was the worst pain I’d ever had,” Karen said. The diagnosis was a gallstone.

The gallbladder is an organ that stores bile that aids in digestion. Gallstones form in the gallbladder because of factors including diet, genetics and bile flow. They cause symptoms when they block the mouth of the gallbladder. As the gallbladder squeezes against a gallstone, the patient can experience intense pain.

By the time Karen left the Emergency Department, the pain had subsided, but an ultrasound had revealed several more stones in her gallbladder. The physician who treated her recommended that she see J.R. Salameh, MD, FACS, Chief, General Surgery, Virginia Hospital Center.

As soon as Dr. Salameh saw her ultrasound, he told Karen that another attack was inevitable, and suggested that she consider having surgery.

“I never wanted to go through that pain again,” Karen said.

da Vinci® robotDr. Salameh explained the surgical options for removing her gallbladder. Because her situation was not an emergency, he recommended robotic single site surgery in which the da Vinci® robot is used to remove the gallbladder through one tiny incision in the belly button. Da Vinci® Single Site® Surgery is a new technique that has only been approved by the FDA for gallbladder surgery within the last year. A member of the Virginia Hospital Center Physician Group, Dr. Salameh is one of only a handful of surgeons in the region with the highly specialized expertise to perform this procedure.

“Virginia Hospital Center is at the forefront of technology for digestive surgery,” Dr. Salameh said. “We have excellent outcomes with low complication rates.”

The biggest advantage of da Vinci Single Site Surgery is that it leaves no visible scars because the incision is made through the belly button. By comparison, laparoscopic surgery requires three to four small incisions.

“For patients, the results are the same as for laparoscopic surgery, with no additional risks or complications,” Dr. Salameh said. “With robotic single site surgery, I can’t even tell they’ve had an operation. It’s very appealing to patients.”

Karen’s procedure, which was done on an outpatient basis, took less than an hour. “I was not nervous at all,” she recalled. “Dr. Salameh and the entire staff were so confident that it made me feel comfortable.”

After surgery, Karen said she started feeling better very quickly. She only took pain medication on the day of her surgery and the next day.

“For the first few days, I was just being more careful,” she said. “But after that, I was pretty much back to myself. I felt really good.” Since the surgery, she’s had no further pain— and no scar as a reminder.

“When Dr. Salameh took the tape off, I couldn’t see anything,” Karen said. “It’s amazing.”


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