Robotic Surgery – Bariatric Application, A Patient's Story

March 13, 2012

On December 30, 2008, NGMC performed the first robotics gastric bypass case in Georgia on Gainesville native Linda Giles. For years, Linda battled with her weight and the effects that it was having on her overall health including high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea.

"I had trouble losing the weight on my own," says Linda. "I had tried many times before, but the weight just would not come off. It was when I had to buy a size XXL shirt that I knew I had to do something fast."

Linda went to see Alex Nguyen, MD, a surgeon with Lanier Bariatric Specialists, a division of Northeast Georgia Surgical Associates, in Gainesville, to look into the possibility of gastric bypass surgery. It was during this meeting that she learned that not only was she a candidate for the surgery, but that Dr. Nguyen could use the da Vinci robot to complete her procedure.

"Robotic surgery is a particularly good option for bariatric patients who choose the gastric bypass procedure," says Dr. Nguyen, who also serves as medical director of the Robotic Surgical Program at NGMC. "When performing a gastric bypass procedure, the most complicated and important part of the surgery is creating the communication between the stomach and small bowel after creating the gastric pouch. The most common approaches in connecting them are to either staple or hand sew them together, but the approach that has demonstrated the best results and least complications to date is the sewing approach. The robot makes hand sewing much easier by increasing the dexterity, precision and vision of the surgeon in the tight space. More and more studies are now showing that not only in bariatrics but also in other surgical specialties, complication rates are less in the robotic-assisted approach when compared to the standard laparoscopic approaches."

"My first priority was a successful patient outcome," adds Dr. Nguyen. "Linda had an extremely successful surgery with no complications. Being the first case in Georgia, I also wanted the procedure to be technically smooth, which it was. The staff at NGMC deserves a lot of the credit for how smoothly everything went. The group really came together, and I am proud to be a member of the team that completed this successful case and brought this surgical technique for bariatrics to the state of Georgia."

Since the surgery, Linda has already lost more than 70 pounds and now buys size medium rather than size XXL shirt.

"Before surgery, I hated exercising," says Linda. "Literally, there were days that just the thought of it made me want to cry, but now I love it! It is one of my favorite things to do."

In fact, Linda and her parents exercise at the Georgia Mountains YMCA almost daily. In addition to exercising, she also is eating healthier and drinking much more water.

Not only has her surgery helped her to lose weight, but Linda also has seen numerous benefits to her overall health. Since surgery just six months ago, she has already reduced her insulin intake for treatment of her diabetes and has been able to stop taking four of her five diabetes medications; her cholesterol has lowered to a level where her physicians are considering removing her from her medication; her sleep apnea is gone, so she no longer has to sleep with a nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine; and she says she has more energy than she has ever had.

"This entire process has been fun," says Linda. "Since losing more than 70 pounds, I have been able to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes that I love, including shoes, since I even went down a shoe size! But most of all, I am happier than I have ever been and am enjoying each day to its fullest."

Like all new technology, robotic surgery is not appropriate for all patients. For more information about surgical and non-surgical weight loss options available at NGMC’s Bariatric Weight Loss Center, call 770-219-0061.