by Paula M. Riley

Chestnut Hill Hospital has achieved another designation as a high quality medical facility. It was recently named a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology (COEMIG) by the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL) and the Surgical Review Corporation.

This designation has been given to only three hospitals in Pennsylvania, and Chestnut Hill is the only recipient in the entire Delaware Valley.

The COEMIG program distinguishes surgeons and facilities that demonstrate an unparalleled commitment and ability to consistently deliver safe, effective, evidence-based and coordinated care. The AAGL is the leading association promoting minimally invasive gynecologic surgery among surgeons worldwide.

Although not always a topic openly discussed, gynecological problems faced by women are common and can hinder daily living by causing great pain, inconvenience and stress. Lynda Thomas-Mabine, M.D., FACOG, chair of GYN services, Chestnut Hill Hospital, said women could come to Chestnut Hill Hospital to find the appropriate treatment “We offer a plethora of conservative options including hormone therapy, pain management, and fibroid embolization (a procedure that cuts off blood supply to the uterus), to treat issues such as irregular bleeding, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence,” Thomas-Mabine said.

Surgery, she said, is a procedure of last resort. After non-surgical approaches have been exhausted, Chestnut Hill Hospital offers minimally invasive gynecology surgical services. Minimally invasive surgery provides a significantly lower risk of complications, less blood loss, shorter hospital stays and significantly faster recovery time.

Performing a myomectomy (removal of uterine fibroids), eliminating post-menstrual bleeding, performing a hysterectomy, repairing walls of the bladder and elevating a uterine prolapse are just a few of the gynecological procedures completed with minimally invasive surgery at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

The greatest benefit for the patients? They can return to normal activities within 7 to 14 days. Thomas-Mabine said one of her patients who had minimally invasive gynecological surgery ran a marathon within a week.

Obviously surgeons prefer when patients follow all post-op instructions (which do not include running a race a week later), but the fact that the women was able to run all 26.2 miles shortly after having surgery speaks to just how minimally invasive the procedures are, Thomas-Mabine said.

This type of patient outcome is one reason the COEMIG program recognized Chestnut Hill Hospital.

The COEMIG program focuses on improving the safety and quality of GYN patient care and expanding awareness of and access to minimally invasive gynecology procedures. To earn the designation, Chestnut Hill Hospital’s procedures were carefully reviewed. Quality indicators included surgical outcomes, experience of surgical staff, status of technology and equipment and patient outcomes – specifically blood loss, readmission rate and mortality rates (Chestnut Hill Hospital has a 0 percent mortality rate from GYN minimally invasive surgery).

Thomas–Mabine explained that the hospital underwent a rigorous review from numerous outside sources, and after the reviewers’ site visit she expected to wait for six weeks to get the final result.

“[The reviewers] were so impressed by their review of our clinical unit, medical records and patient outcomes that we received the award within two weeks,” she said.”Now we have a stamp of approval that reflects the good work we have been doing here for such a long time.”

More than 30 years ago Chestnut Hill Hospital started performing vaginal hysterectomies.

“We were on the forefront then – more recently in 2009, we had another game changer – we got the da Vinci Si Robotic Surgical System,” said Thomas-Mabine.

Now, surgeons use this robotic technology in the new advanced surgical suite that opened last October at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

“We have everything the ‘big city hospitals’ have, plus all our GYN docs are doing minimally invasive surgery,” said Thomas-Mabine.

Right now at Chestnut Hill Hospital 85 percent of its gynecological surgeries are performed using minimally invasive procedures and these are also employed when treating uterine-gynecological and gynecological oncology surgery as well as infertility.

Even the most advanced fertility procedures are done with minimally invasive surgery such as tubal obstruction, myotomy to reconstruct uterus for pregnancy preservation or uterine cavity-myoma fistula.

Whether treating infertility, incontinence or other issues women face, Thomas-Mabine believes that Chestnut Hill’s surgeons and the entire team’s collaborative efforts are what make the outcomes so successful.

“Our best secret is really our nursing,” Thomas-Mabine said. “We have veteran nurses who can give the boutique individual care that people want their loved ones to receive.”