Robotic Hernia Surgery — Maximum Benefit, Minimal Downtime

Looking back, there’s only one thing Elizabeth Garvin would change about her minimally invasive hernia repair surgery at ChristianaCare’s Hernia Center.

Peter Santoro, M.D., FACS

“I would have done it sooner,” said Garvin, who underwent an abdominal wall reconstruction on Jan. 13 after living with two hernias that developed after her colon ruptured in 2020.

Her surgeon, Peter Santoro, M.D., FACS, director of robotic surgery for ChristianaCare, needed only six small incisions to repair Garvin’s hernia, thanks to the precision afforded by robotic surgery. Unlike traditional open surgery, robotic surgery offers a less-invasive approach that allows specially trained surgeons to direct the machine’s mechanical arms to make the cuts and stitches inside a patient.

Expertise in robotic surgery

ChristianaCare has five of these state-of the-art surgical robots, along with more than 20 surgeons who are credentialed to use them.

Prior to her surgery, Garvin experienced discomfort bending over and when tying her shoes because of the bulges created by the hernias. Clothing also could be a source of frustration. When she finally decided to have surgery, Garvin researched her options, including those closer to her home in Sussex County.

Elizabeth Garvin, of Millville, Delaware, shared her hernia repair experience with Delaware Beach Life magazine.

“I consider myself very blessed to have been in Dr. Santoro’s office. From the get-go, he was so invested in making sure I was educated,” said Garvin, who was so impressed by Santoro, section chief for general surgery and also medical director of the Hernia Center at ChristianaCare, that she happily traveled from her home in Millville to Wilmington Hospital for her care.

‘Really amazing’

For Garvin, the minimally invasive procedure resulted in a much shorter recovery time and far less pain and discomfort than previous surgeries. She only needed over-the-counter pain medication for the first two days after her surgery, and in less than a week she returned – unassisted – to her daily activities.

Elizabeth Garvin said she was most surprised at how good she felt in the days after her hernia repair surgery.

But her biggest surprise came soon after her surgery, when she was still recovering in the hospital. Although she felt good, she was dreading the first time she would have to get out of the bed.

Except this time, she laughed.

“It didn’t hurt,” she said.

Freed from the discomfort of her hernias, Garvin, a retiree who moved to Sussex County from Pennsylvania, is enjoying the connections she’s making in her new hometown. She’s got some advice for anyone stuck between traditional open surgery and robotic surgery.

“Robotic surgery is really amazing. I feel bad for people who don’t get surgery this way,” she said.

Peter Santoro, M.D., is director of robotic surgery at ChristianaCare.