A Pioneer for Minimally Invasive Surgeries

By Noreen Kompanik

Photography courtesy of Marc Burford Photography and

   Dr. Daniel Lee pioneered a regional movement to bring minimally invasive surgical techniques to his local patients.

   What if you’ve been told by your gynecologist that you need surgery? A hysterectomy, for example, is one of the most common gynecological procedures performed. For most patients, this news comes with a degree of worry and trepidation – about the incision, recovery time, scarring, and of course, pain. These are absolutely normal reactions. But thanks to science, technology, and a group of creatively-minded physicians that have embraced new techniques, there are improved options available for the surgical patient. And they come with a whole lot of benefits.

   Minimally invasive, robotic and single-site surgeries have been performed by physicians throughout the United States for years. But it was Dr. Daniel Lee of Memphis Obstetrics and Gynecological Association who pioneered a regional movement in 2014, bringing these less-invasive surgical procedures to North Mississippi and the Mid-South, including DeSoto County.

   “Minimally-invasive surgeries are part of my job I’m most excited about,” says Lee. He was trained in minimally invasive and robotic techniques during his residency at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. At the very start of his private practice, he was a committed advocate of these more advanced surgical procedures. Constantly researching the most modern techniques to benefit his patients, Lee and his practice offer minimally invasive, robotic, and single-site surgeries for hysterectomies. These fertility-sparing options are also beneficial for treating endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts.

   Open traditional surgery to remove the uterus (a hysterectomy, for example) requires larger incisions across the abdomen to accommodate the surgeon’s hands and surgical tools. This requires cutting through muscle and tissue beyond the surgical site itself to access the area of concern.

   On the other hand, minimally invasive surgery uses ultra-small incisions, usually less than one-half of an inch for fine surgical tools and a camera, allowing the surgeon to see inside the body without moving large amounts of other tissue. Laparoscopy and robotic surgery are two techniques used to perform these minimally invasive procedures.

   Laparoscopy was one of the first minimally invasive procedures, utilizing tubes, fiber optic cameras with magnified images, and tiny instruments. Robotics is a subset of minimally invasive surgery using a robot and a more advanced 3D high-definition camera, such as the Da Vinci surgical system from Intuitive. Robotic surgery works much the same way, but instead of the surgeon manually controlling surgical instruments, he or she operates a robotic machine that actually controls special surgical tools that can move in ways manually controlled tools cannot.

   Single-site surgeries carry with them all benefits of minimally invasive procedures but rather than four to five small incisions spread across the abdomen supporting the robotic technique, procedures can now often be done through one small 3 cm belly button incision. “When we can do the single-site,” Lee explains, “it practically hides itself with an even better cosmetic outcome for the patient.”

   Minimally invasive techniques can be used to perform not only hysterectomies, but also for treatment of endometriosis, removal of fibroids, benign and malignant tumors, ovarian cysts, and pelvic prolapse. Though not every patient is a candidate for this type of surgery, Lee explains that the majority do meet the criteria for these techniques.

   As a practicing surgeon at Memphis’ Baptist DeSoto, Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, and Methodist Germantown, Lee agrees that there’s definitely an investment for OB/GYN physicians in the techniques of minimally invasive surgery. Though more technically challenging than conventional surgical methods, “the benefits to the patient,” says Lee, “are more than worth it.”

   Minimally invasive techniques, as mentioned, require a much smaller incision which means less blood loss during surgery along with a reduced risk of infection and other surgical complications. Patients experience much less post-operative pain and have a faster recovery time with significantly less scarring (if any).

   The majority of patients return home on the same day of surgery where they can recover in their own surroundings, and return to their jobs and get back to life more quickly. And, as Lee proudly exclaims, “In less than six weeks, one of my patients was back traveling internationally after her procedure. That would not have been the case in a more conventional surgical approach.”

   Every physician in Lee’s practice performs minimally invasive surgeries. His team continues to push the cutting edge in technology by maximizing the use of minimally invasive procedures of all types wherever possible.

   “We’re even performing micro-laparoscopy which utilizes an even smaller incision and we’re doing all these things practically in people’s backyards,” he says. “There are very few reasons for patients to get cut wide open anymore related to GYN surgeries, so we’re happy to offer them an alternative approach. We’re doing it in Southaven, Miss., and we’re doing it in DeSoto County.”

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