Penn Highlands Healthcare Physician Performs Innovative Hysterectomy Surgery

There was a time that if a woman needed a hysterectomy she could expect a hospital stay followed by an at-home recovery time of four to six weeks. Now, thanks to vaginal natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (vNOTES), a new minimally invasive procedure performed by Walter R. Cox, MD, at Penn Highlands Gynecology (formerly known as Valley Women’s Health) women can resume most normal activities within days.

In September 2022, Debbie Bachinski, of Monessen, Pennsylvania, was one of the first women to benefit from this new procedure.

“When I saw Dr. Cox in his Monongahela office for the first time in July 2022, my routine pap test came back with significant changes over previous tests,” explained Mrs. Bachinski. “Dr. Cox performed a colposcopy and removed some cervical polyps in his office. They were biopsied and came back ‘all clear.’ To avoid any further complications, Dr. Cox recommended a hysterectomy performed with the new procedure.”

The vNOTES procedure is an advanced gynecologic technique that provides many benefits to female patients, such as shorter hospital stays, less postoperative pain, no visible scars and a faster recovery time.

Dr. Cox is one of the few surgeons in Southwestern Pennsylvania who has been specially trained on this innovative approach to hysterectomies.

“I am continually seeking opportunities and training to offer the most advanced techniques to my patients,” said Dr. Cox. “Traditional vaginal hysterectomy is the approach of choice but the surgeon cannot always remove the tubes and ovaries this way. Historically, that would mean a larger abdominal incision, and recently smaller abdominal laparoscopic incisions. vNOTES allows me to access the abdominal area ¬ — the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries — with the utmost precision and visualization without making abdominal incisions.”

The vNOTES technique uses a vaginal surgical access route. A device is inserted into the vagina which allows the abdomen to be slightly inflated with carbon dioxide to give the surgeon the space needed to see and operate. A high-definition camera and specialized instruments are inserted through the device, which enable the surgeon to perform the hysterectomy successfully.

“My patients have been able to leave the hospital the same day they had their vNOTES hysterectomy,” said Dr. Cox. “They have appreciated the fact that they can return to their normal activities more quickly. This is especially beneficial to young patients undergoing risk-reducing surgery due to a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer.”

“The experience was unbelievable,” said Mrs. Bachinski. “I didn’t have bleeding or any of the other side effects commonly experienced with a hysterectomy. I had major surgery but it didn’t feel like major surgery.” In fact, I do not have any scars either. From the first time I met Dr. Cox in July, he made me feel at ease. I felt as though I knew him for a long time and could trust him,” added the mother of three.

Surgical societies see the benefits of minimally invasive vaginal hysterectomy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists have recommended vaginal hysterectomy, whenever possible as the approach of choice.

“The vNOTES is another surgical innovation that I have available to me to enhance patient satisfaction and outcomes,” added Dr. Cox.

Dr. Cox sees patients at Penn Highlands Gynecology with offices at Penn Highlands Mon Valley, 1163 Country Club Road, in Monongahela, and at the Penn Highlands Mon Valley HealthPlex, 800 Plaza Drive, in Rostraver Township. To schedule an appointment, call 724-258-2229.