01:55pm Friday 29 May 2020

Doctor performs Missouri's first robotically assisted weight loss surgery

Dr. Varela, assisted by Lora Melman, MD, used the four-armed da Vinci robotic system to complete the minimally invasive weight reduction procedure. He plans to integrate use of the robot into the other types of bariatric surgery available at Barnes-Jewish, such as LapBand and gastric sleeve procedures.

“At Washington University and Barnes-Jewish, innovation, quality and outcomes in bariatric surgery top priorities,” Dr. Varela said. “An innovation like use of the robot in bariatric surgery has the potential to improve perioperative outcomes for the bariatric patient.”

Gastric bypass surgery helps morbidly obese patients lose weight by making the stomach smaller and rerouting the intestines, limiting food intake and calorie absorption. It is traditionally done with an “open” procedure which entails a long incision in the abdomen.

Most surgeons now perform gastric bypass laparoscopically – through several small incisions in the abdomen using specially designed tools. This minimally invasive approach has been shown to result in shorter hospital stays and fewer complications for the patient.

The robotic system is a refinement of the laparoscopic technique. The da Vinci console, with which the surgeon controls the robotic arms, gives the surgeon a 3-D, high definition view, improved depth perception, with fully “wristed” instruments, giving the surgeon a range of motion not possible with laparoscopic tools. This lets the surgeon perform delicate maneuvers more precisely.

Robotic surgery is widely used for many procedures, such as hysterectomies and prostate cancer surgery. Dr. Varela feels that it will become common practice in bariatric procedures.


“These bariatric surgeries are very effective, and the addition of robotics should only add to even better outcomes,” Dr. Varela says.


Kathryn Holleman
(314) 286-0303
[email protected]

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