Reproductive health conditions are often treated with minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. Learn more about this innovative procedure.

Being told you need surgery or a surgical evaluation for a reproductive health condition is scary and stressful. But surgical techniques have advanced tremendously, and many surgeries are now faster and easier than ever. Today, specialists can use minimally invasive gynecologic surgery to treat a wide range of common health conditions of the reproductive system.

These surgeries have many benefits for the patient. Most importantly, they may not require incisions. Any required incisions are typically small, which allows for a much faster and easier recovery.

Here’s a look at the various types of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery options and some of the conditions they can treat.

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Types of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery

Reproductive health conditions involve the cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina, and vulva. In the past, many surgeries on these organs required large incisions and a long recovery time. Now surgeons can use less invasive approaches to treat a wide range of gynecologic conditions. Minimally invasive surgery is, as the name suggests, far less invasive than traditional open surgeries.

Laparoscopic surgery is a common form of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. Here, a surgeon makes 1 or a few tiny incisions (less than an inch) in your abdomen. Through the incision(s), they insert a narrow tube with a video camera called a laparoscope and surgical instruments.

Your surgeon might do robotic surgery depending on the type of procedure and areas they need to access. It’s similar to laparoscopic surgery in that it requires very small incisions and a camera device to see inside you. But with robotic surgery, video images are in 3D, and the surgeon manipulates the instruments at a console using a robotic arm.

Surgeons might choose to use robotic surgery because it offers:

  • Very detailed, high-definition, 3D images of the surgical site.
  • The ability to rotate surgical instruments and the camera in any direction.
  • Precision and control.

Hysteroscopy is another minimally invasive gynecologic surgery. Doctors use this procedure to diagnose and treat problems in your uterus.

During a hysteroscopy, the hysteroscope (a thin, lighted tube) and tools enter your uterus through the vagina and cervix. This requires no incisions.

The Advantages of Minimally Invasive Surgery

All of these minimally invasive surgical techniques are highly effective. Because they don’t require a large incision, they’re also safer and have tremendous advantages for patients.

Patients undergoing minimally invasive gynecologic surgeries receive anesthesia and won’t feel the procedure. You’ll also get additional pain medicine, if needed, afterward. The type of surgery and length of the procedure will depend on your condition, symptoms, and other factors.

These include:

  • Less blood loss during surgery.
  • Lower risk of infections because of smaller incisions.
  • Less pain during recovery.
  • A shorter hospital stay. In some cases, you can go home within the same day.
  • Faster recovery and return to your regular activities.
  • Smaller or no scars.

Conditions Treated with Minimally Invasive Surgery

Minimally invasive gynecologic surgery isn’t appropriate for every condition. But these approaches can diagnose and treat a wide range of reproductive health conditions, such as:

  • Adenomyosis — when the lining of the uterus grows into the uterine wall.
  • Bleeding issues — heavy, painful, or abnormal periods or bleeding after menopause.
  • Cervical or endometrial polyps — abnormal growths on the cervix or in the uterus.
  • Endometriosis — when cells that line the uterus grow into the abdomen.
  • Fibroids — growths in or on your uterus that can cause pain, bleeding, and infertility.
  • Gynecologic cancers — surgeries help doctors stage and treat cancers.
  • Hysterectomy — the removal of your uterus and cervix.
  • Infertility — conditions that reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.
  • Ovarian cysts — fluid-filled sacs that grow inside or outside of the ovaries.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse — pelvic organs may descend into the vagina.
  • Pelvic pain — from various conditions of the reproductive organs.
  • Tubal ligation — permanent birth control surgery to close off the fallopian tubes.
  • Urinary incontinence — the leaking of urine during everyday life.

Surgeons do many of these procedures in an outpatient surgical center, where you can go home in a few hours after your anesthesia wears off. For others, you might need to stay in the hospital for a night or 2. No patient relishes the thought of surgery. But if you need to have a gynecologic surgical procedure, it’s nice to know that these minimally invasive options exist. Talk to your doctor to learn if they can relieve pain or protect your health.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.