The method, developed by associate professor of surgery Myriam Curet, MD, is an improvement on a more conventional technique called laparoscopic surgery. In both instances, specialized tools with cameras attached are inserted through small holes in the patient's body. But while traditional laparoscopic tools are held in the surgeon's hand, the robotic tools are operated remotely from a control station.
"It makes the surgery easier," said Curet, noting that the da Vinci robotic surgical system, manufactured by Intuitive Surgical Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., offers several advantages over hand-held laparoscopic tools. For example, it has a 3-D camera to aid visualization, as opposed to the 2-D fiber optic cameras used in the conventional tools. The robotic arms also have highly flexible wrists, making precise maneuvers possible.
The robot also offers a benefit specific to gastric bypass surgery, which is often performed on morbidly obese patients: the robotic arms are strong enough to stay steady while working in these patients' massive abdomens. "The robot minimizes the torque of the abdominal wall," Curet explained, decreasing the chance that the surgeon would have to switch to open-cavity surgery midway through the procedure.
Gastric bypass is the most common form of weight-loss surgery. It drastically reduces the stomach's size to limit the amount of food intake, and also bypasses a significant portion of the small intestine, cutting down on nutrient absorption.
As the obesity epidemic has grown in recent years, so too has the number of gastric bypass operations. In the Un
Contact: Michelle Brandt
Stanford University Medical Center