Meet the OBGYNs using the da Vinci Surgical Robot for minimally-invasive Gynaecologic Surgery
The da Vinci Surgical Robot is the centerpiece of the Murphy and Helen Hull Robotics Centre at Humber River Hospital. Originally pioneered by Humber Urologists, and later adopted by General Surgeons for ventral hernia repair, the robot is now being used by a third program: Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Across the board, surgery with the da Vinci reduces a patient’s time in-hospital, reduces the needs for pain medication, and reduces the risk of complications.
Currently, two Humber OBGYNs are trained for surgery using the robot: Dr. André LaRoche and Dr. Grace Yeung.
“We use the robot for complex cases that we wouldn’t be able to do as well with traditional forms of minimally-invasive surgery,” says Dr. André LaRoche, the Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Humber River Hospital and our first OBGYN to use the robot for his patients. “This has included patients with medical complications who require surgery for endometriosis, fibroids, and hysterectomy (removing the uterus).”
One patient, Miren, was 80 years old when her OBGYN at another hospital found Grade 1 cancer in her uterus. The OBGYN informed Miren that she could perform a traditional hysterectomy, but that because of her age and health, she recommended that they consider robotic surgery at Humber River Hospital.
Dr. LaRoche used the da Vinci Surgical Robot to perform Miren’s hysterectomy, removing her uterus and ovaries using only a few small incisions, which helped minimize her pain and shorten her recovery time.
After bringing her mother home, Miren’s daughter Sylvia was amazed to see how mobile she was. Miren experienced a little cramping, but no real pain and never took any pain medication beyond Tylenol. She was up on her feet, washing her face and brushing her teeth the next day.
“There is no way she would have been able to do that without the robotic surgery,” says Sylvia. “When I looked at her incision, there was nothing there except three tiny spots!”
Inspired by the outcomes he was seeing in his patients, Dr. LaRoche expanded the Gynaecologic Surgery program at Humber by hiring Dr. Grace Yeung in 2020.
“As a med student I was inspired by how women who underwent minimally invasive surgery walked out of the hospital the next day, if not the same day, with very little pain and incisions the size of my thumbnail – almost as if they never had surgery,” says Dr. Yeung. “I knew early on that I wanted to perform minimally invasive surgeries like this. It took me an additional seven years after medical school to finish the training.”
Both Dr. LaRoche and Dr. Yeung are passionate about the impact robotic surgeries can have on their patients’ lives.
“When I meet the women who are my patients and hear their stories, it brings each case to life,” says Dr. Yeung. “I can see the impact that my care has on their lives and that is so rewarding. I have always wanted to do this, and I’m grateful that this is what my years of training has led to.”
“Robotic surgery improves patient outcomes,” says Dr. LaRoche. “Right now we have to prioritize complex cases usually involving cancer, but eventually I would love to expand our program to include more benign gynaecology patients.”
The da Vinci Surgical Robot is the centerpiece of the Murphy and Helen Hull Robotics Centre at Humber River Hospital. The Centre was established thanks to a transformational donation from Helen Hull and her late husband, Murphy Hull.