UNC Health Care is profiling the five hospital specialties nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report this year. This installment focuses on UNC’s excellence in gynecologic care, ranked 25th in the nation.

The Da Vinci Surgical System at UNC Hospitals (Photo by Brian Strickland)

By Matthew Englund, UNC Health Care Newsroom

By providing one of the most comprehensive and innovative surgical programs in the state, UNC OB-GYN has distinguished itself as one of nation’s top referral centers for gynecologic care. Recently ranked 25th in the nation among gynecological programs in U.S News and World Report’s listing of the country’s best hospitals, two of the department’s doctors were also named among the nation’s top cancer doctors by Newsweek. The department’s residency program was also rated as one of the top in nation by Doximity.

As one of the largest and most well-respected gynecologic surgery programs in the area, UNC sees a high volume of patients, many of whom present surgeons with unique challenges, says Matthew Siedhoff, MD, director of UNC Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery.

“Because of the kinds of referrals we see, we are able to push the envelope both in terms of how we employ the technology and our practical, hands-on skills. Every case is a challenge and we encounter enough unusual cases that we’ve learned to adjust to what the situation presents.”

The department’s use and development of emerging technologies has had strong influence on the many high-complexity referrals UNC’s gynecologic surgeons encounter. UNC OB-GYN has long been an early adopter of minimally invasive techniques, according to Siedhoff.

“In the 1990s, John Steege, who was the division director of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at UNC before he retired, started using laparoscopy to address things like pelvic pain and to perform hysterectomies. This was at a time when most people were not picking up the laparoscope for these kinds of procedures, so we began well ahead of the curve and have remained ahead,” he says.

One of the most important features of laparoscopy and other minimally invasive techniques is the impact they can have on patient outcomes.

“We take on patients with very complex pathologies,” says Siedhoff, “like patients who have had several prior surgeries, or who might have very large masses or large fibroids, and we can take that out through a tiny little incision. That makes a big impact on a patient’s recovery. They spend very little time in the hospital compared with open incisions, they experience less pain and there are fewer of the complications typically associated with blood loss or wound infection.”

The largest change to the field in recent years has been the expansion of robotically-assisted surgery, and UNC OB-GYN is at the forefront of this development also.

In 2005, the robotic Da Vinci Surgical System was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for gynecologic surgery. That same year, the device was brought to Chapel Hill by John Boggess, MD, professor of gynecologic oncology and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Continue.