By Nicole La Hoz
The pain in her knee was so bad last year, 22-year-old Katelyn Hinton had to take time off from work. And after three days of barely standing up, she visited the emergency room in Fort Pierce, Fla., for scans.
It was a blood clot in her right leg, going from the knee into her stomach.
The bad news didn’t stop there. When Hinton’s menstrual cycles became painful, her doctor informed her that she also had several ovarian cysts.
That’s when Hinton was referred to Nash Moawad, M.D., M.S., director of the Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology and head of minimally invasive surgery in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the UF College of Medicine.
“I’ll still drive there for whatever I need because Dr. Moawad is the best,” Hinton said.
The department of obstetrics and gynecology received its Center of Excellence designation in October from the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists.
The center focuses on reducing complications post-surgery by using laparoscopes (thin, lighted tubes inserted below the belly button), hysteroscopes (lighted viewing instruments inserted through the cervix into the uterus) and robotic surgery with small or no incisions.
“It’s a center or department that excels in a certain field,” Moawad said. “It provides more than what the average center will provide.”
Minimally invasive procedures require one to two weeks of recovery time versus four to six weeks after traditional surgery. Patients are sometimes discharged the same day.
Everything, from minimally invasive surgical volume to 24-hour anesthesiologist coverage, is taken into consideration for a “Center of Excellence” distinction.
“The goals are to improve the safety of patients, efficiency and decrease the risk of complications,” Moawad said.
Because Hinton was on blood thinners at the time, surgery was too risky. Instead, she received Depo-Provera, a birth control shot, for six months before Moawad and his team performed laparoscopic surgery in November to remove all of Hinton’s ovarian cysts and endometriosis, which occurs when tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other parts of the body.
To Moawad, endometriosis surgery is what makes the center stand out.
“We can remove the endometriosis and restore pelvic anatomy without having to remove ovaries or perform a hysterectomy,” Moawad said. “Patients can retain fertility.”
When Hinton saw pictures of the cysts compared to her ovaries, she was shocked. The endometriosis was so extreme, her ovaries stuck to her back.
“I was completely gray, weak and in so much pain, I had to take off from work a week at a time,” she said. “Now, I’m pain-free because Dr. Moawad is the absolute best.”
It’s not just the center’s skills that make it great, Hinton said. It’s also the bedside manner of its staff.
“Dr. Moawad calls and checks on me every few months to make sure everything’s fine,” Hinton said.
“If he can take care of it for me, I’ll go there,” Hinton said — even with a 3.5-hour drive.