Robotic procedure allows gallbladder removal with virtually no scarring

Leonardo da Vinci, world-renowned inventor, artist and scientist, developed the first robot in recorded history more than five centuries ago. The robot looked like a knight in armor, and its design and function were based on da Vinci’s detailed studies of human anatomy.

Bearing his name, the da Vinci® Surgical System uses breakthrough robotic technology to change the experience of surgery. With da Vinci, even complex surgeries can be performed through tiny incisions.

Jaime Wright of Anderson is a real-life endorsement for da Vinci surgery. After experiencing severe back pain for a year, Wright noticed a yellowish color in her eyes and decided it was time to call her family doctor. Wright’s family doctor ordered blood tests, which showed a high level of liver enzymes. An ultrasound of her gallbladder confirmed the presence of a large number of gallstones.

Gallstones form when bile hardens and crystallizes in clumps in the gallbladder. Gallstones are most common in overweight adults between the ages of 35 and 55, so, at only 29 years old and of normal weight, Wright was somewhat surprised by her diagnosis. She learned the extra estrogen her body produced during pregnancy—she had her second child in 2011—can contribute to the development of gallstones. This may explain why gallstones affect women more than men.

Wright was referred to Dr. Paul Frassinelli of Piedmont Surgical Associates, and, on his advice, opted to have her gallbladder removed at AnMed Health in early May. Removing the gallbladder is the most common treatment for symptomatic gallstones. Without the gallbladder, bile – a substance produced by the liver to aid in the digestion of fats – flows directly from the liver to the intestine.

Dr. Frassinelli determined that Wright was a good candidate for a type of procedure using the da Vinci Surgical System: gallbladder removal through a single small incision, rather than the four incisions required with traditional laparoscopic surgery or the large incision with open surgery. The operation is technically known as single incision robotic-assisted laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and Dr. Frassinelli was the first South Carolina physician trained to perform it.

“The da Vinci system has rather ingeniously made the instruments for this surgery smaller and curved, allowing all of them to be inserted through one incision less than an inch long,” Dr. Frassinelli explained. “The patient enjoys the benefits of minimally invasive surgery, such as less pain, lower blood loss, a shorter hospital stay, and faster recovery. And, because the incision is made in the navel, there is virtually no scarring.”

Wright went home the same day as her surgery and experienced very little pain, just some minor soreness. She went back to work four days later, even though, as a registered nurse, she’s on her feet most of the day.

With her back pain gone, Wright can once again pick up and play with her children. And considering that summer arrived immediately after her surgery, she’s also grateful for the cosmetic outcome.

“You really can’t even see my scar,” Wright said. “When you consider that I can wear my swimsuit without anyone noticing I had surgery as recently as May, well, that’s pretty impressive.”