EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Few women welcome the start of their monthly cycle, but Kristine Stolt simply dreaded it, knowing that its arrival meant heavy bleeding and intense pain.
On a pain scale of one to 10, Stolt described her pain level as “easily a 10” on her worst days. To try and manage her discomfort, she took ibuprofen three days before her period began and continued to take it daily until it was done.
Still, the pain was so extreme that it would wake her up at night.
“I’d just have awful pain that would keep me up. Sometimes, I’d be rocking myself in bed, writhing in pain,” says Stolt, a 46-year-old mother and grandmother from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Coincidentally, Stolt, who works as an ultrasound technician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, heard about a new hysterectomy procedure that her colleague, Donald Weber, M.D., recently began offering, and a light bulb went on.
“I got to a point in my life that I knew I wasn’t going to be having any more children, and I was tired of all the things that you do to try and keep things at bay to get through that monthly cycle,” she says. “I heard about what Dr. Weber was starting to do with the fast-track procedure, and I thought ‘Well, sign me up.’”
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a woman’s uterus and commonly is performed to treat uterine fibroids, endometriosis, gynecologic cancer and a host of other women’s health conditions. Stolt’s April 2014 laparoscopic fast-track hysterectomy was one of the first performed at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.
Although it’s not for everyone — those with complex medical problems, for example, would not be candidates, Dr. Weber notes — the minimally invasive surgery can offer the right candidate a number of advantages to a conventional hysterectomy, including a shorter hospital stay, less pain and the ability to resume normal activities more quickly.
“Principally, the surgery part is largely the same. Over the years, we’ve enhanced things that will minimize pain, and the fast-track option was really designed to prepare people to go home after a short stay in the hospital,” says Dr. Weber, an obstetrician-gynecologist, who, along with his colleagues, has performed about 50 fast-track hysterectomies to date.
With the conventional approach, women stay in the hospital for one to three days after the uterus is removed. With a fast-track hysterectomy, they are able to go home the same day, often hours after surgery. As technology has improved, smaller incisions are being used to perform the hysterectomy, which leads to less pain and allows for faster healing.
“The idea with this is that we have newer ways of managing pain and other health problems,” he continues. “We felt that, for many patients, they did not care to be in the hospital overnight or two or three nights. This was a way to enhance the recovery process so they could get home in a much-shortened timeframe.”
The desire to be home as quickly as possible made Stolt a perfect candidate for the procedure, Dr. Weber says.
“Kris was motivated to get out of the hospital,” he says. “She was someone who wanted to be home rather than stay in the hospital. She felt that being around her family would a better thing for her and, like many people, that sleeping in her own bed would be preferable to being in a hospital bed.”
Stolt, who went home the same day, describes her experience with a fast-track hysterectomy as “wonderful” and is grateful to finally be pain free.
“It was such an easy process, and everyone there was great,” she says. “It was a wonderful experience for me.”
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Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 60 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.