Vera Boyland had been living with a hiatal hernia for nearly a decade. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that it started bothering her. Boyland couldn’t keep food down. She began vomiting blood and experiencing chest pains that brought her to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. After a series of tests, doctors ruled out a heart attack. A CT Scan showed that Vera’s hiatal hernia had grown larger than a softball and was sitting behind her heart making a kink in her esophagus. If not repaired, it could get worse and cut off the blood supply.
What is a Hiatal Hernia?
A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach pushes through a small opening in the diaphragm called the hiatus and up into the chest allowing food and acid to back up into the esophagus leading to heartburn and difficulty with swallowing.
“Some people are born with hiatal hernias or they can happen overtime especially from pregnancy, obesity, coughing or straining,” said Dr. Venkata Kakarla, general surgeon with The Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital. “While common, most people may not realize and deal with associated symptoms like heartburn or reflux with over the counter medication. They don’t experience any major symptoms like chest pain or difficulty in swallowing until the hernia becomes so large that surgery is needed to stop the damage.”
“Dr. Kakarla told me that if I didn’t fix it, I wouldn’t be able to eat,” Boyland said. “He also suggested that he repair the hernia using a robot, which made me hesitant as I didn’t know that could be done at a community hospital. But after hearing about the specialized training that Dr. Kakarla had in robotic surgery and enhanced precision that the robot would provide, I decided to have the surgery.”
Smaller Incisions, Greater Precision
The Midwest Institute for Robotic Surgery at Silver Cross Hospital performs more surgeries using da Vinci® robot-assisted surgical technology than any other facility in the Chicago area—over 4,000 procedures since 2012.
“Complex cases – like Vera’s, that are typically performed at tertiary hospitals can now be done at Silver Cross with the cutting-edge technology that we have here” said Dr. Kakarla. “The potential benefits for patients are many including reduced pain, minimal blood loss and lower risk of complications, as well as a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery time.”
On Feb. 22, 2017, Dr. Kakarla repaired Boyland’s hiatal hernia using Silver Cross’s newest daVinci robot – the XI ®. “The Xi can rotate the operating table with the patient connected to the robot. This is extremely helpful in allowing us to perform very meticulous, complex surgery in a safe, even less invasive manner,” Said Dr. Kakarla.
After making few keyhole incisions in Boyland’s abdomen, Dr. Kakarla sat at a console in the operating room controlling the robot during every step of the procedure. He watched on 3D video monitors as the robot translated his hand movements into smaller, more precise movements of tiny instruments pulling the stomach back in place through the hiatus and repairing the opening to prevent future herniation with mesh placement.
“I thought I was going to be all cut up,” said the 73-year-old Joliet woman. “I like that there were only few small incisions which left just minor bruising. The nurses got me up right away and had me on the road to recovery in no time.”
Just couple of weeks after surgery, Boyland’s esophagus is healing nicely and she able to tolerate diet without issues” added Dr. Kakarla. “Her chest pain and reflux are gone, and she should be back to enjoying all her favorite foods soon.”