It’s been three months since Peta-Anne Louth underwent surgery for a hysterectomy.

Key points:

  • About 30,000 women undergo hysterectomies in Australia each year
  •  vNOTES is a relatively new procedure used around the world and now Australia
  • The surgery is designed to leave no visible scarring and help the patient recover faster

The 48-year-old is one of about 30,000 women in Australia who undergo the procedure to remove reproductive organs every year.

“I’ve got endometriosis and I’ve also got adenomyosis… it was causing me so much pain that I was bed-ridden every two weeks,” she said.

But instead of undergoing a traditional hysterectomy, Ms Louth underwent a new type of procedure called vNOTES at Adelaide’s Lyell McEwin Hospital — one of the first hospitals in the country to offer the surgery.

Ms Louth was one of 20 people who took part in a trial that involved having the new procedure done, which is aimed to be less invasive.

Kate Walsh is an Adelaide Gynaecologist who performs vNOTES surgery.

“We do no cuts in the tummy and we do everything through the vagina…We put an airtight device that creates a seal that allows us to blow up the abdomen which allows us to be able to see and see the structures that we want to cut and want to remove,” Dr Walsh said.

The surgery is designed to be performed quicker, leave no visible scarring and help the patient recover faster.

“I was back at work, you know very quickly, which is a fantastic result.” 

Adelaide Gynaecologist Tran Nguyen performed the vNOTES surgery on Ms Louth.

“She was able to bounce back much sooner than I expected, and it was her mindset as well, so she had quite a long wait for surgery but then was able to respond really well and recovered really well,” Dr Nguyen said.

South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade said the surgery was delivering better health outcomes.

“It reduces the recovery time by half, it reduces the elective surgery time by 40 minutes — that’s great for the patients, that’s great for the hospital,” he said.

Adelaide gynaecologists Tran Nguyen and Kate Walsh with NAHLN CEO Maree Geraghty, NALHN’s Women’s and Children’s divisional director of nursing and midwifery Meredith Hobbs and Lyell McEwin Hospital head of obstetrics and gynaecology Anupam Parange.(ABC News: David Frearson)

The innovative surgery is being used in other parts of the world and is beginning to make an appearance in Australia.

“Belgium has probably been the leaders in vNOTES surgery and it’s been sort of adopted around the world,” Dr Walsh said.

“There’s a couple of surgeons in Sydney who are just starting to do it, but really it’s quite cutting edge for Australia.” 

Ms Louth said the surgery has changed her life.

“My brain isn’t foggy, I’m functioning at 150 per cent as I once was, so to have that procedure was absolutely life-saving for me,” she said.

Is women’s health a taboo issue?

Ms Louth has called for more to be done to focus on women’s health.

“I still feel hysterectomies are considered to be something we still don’t talk about and I’ve been nothing but loud about it since I’ve had one because I want the next generation of women to feel that it’s not a taboo topic to talk about,” Ms Louth said.

Meanwhile, Dr Walsh said women are becoming more vocal about their struggles with heavy periods and the pain they can cause.

“I think we’ve now realised that this is actually unacceptable,” she said.

“Now there are choices available to women and these choices are getting better and less invasive and letting them continue on with their strong and successful lives.”