Da Vinci employed for better GI surgeries


Strathfield is using robotic surgery to improve outcomes for gastro-intestinal patients

Pioneering surgeons Dr David Martin and Dr Michael Talbot from Strathfield Private Hospital are the first Australian doctors to perform robotic upper gastro-intestinal surgery using the da Vinci robot – with the initial procedures yielding impressive results. The robot, which features a 3D-high definition vision system, has tiny wristed instruments that bend and rotate further than the human hand – resulting in tiny incisions, fast recovery and less blood loss.

“Robotic GI surgery allows the surgeon to have a significantly greater range of movement and dexterity when compared to conventional keyhole surgery,” Dr Martin said. “It may be particularly useful for difficult cancer operations or complex revision bariatric surgery. We’ve performed several procedures including sleeve operations, gastric bypasses, hiatus hernia operations and revision surgery on two patients who have previously undergone obesity operations.”

Dr Martin says surgical procedures for obesity are gaining more acceptance as the health benefits are better understood by patients and the medical community – coupled with innovative new technology and good safety profiles.

“The number of obesity operations carried out annually has increased from around 400 procedures 10 years ago, to 13,000 in 2013.” He said whilst diet and exercise are still the front line tactics in the war on weight, when that fails, increasingly surgical procedures play a role. “Today, serious side effects of bariatric surgery occur in less than one per cent of all bariatric surgeries when performed by subspecialty upper GI teams.

“And in more advanced cases, not having surgery can be much riskier. For our average obesity patient with a BMI of 45, (who often has co-existing conditions such as diabetes), the risk of dying prematurely through a weight related issue or cancer is about three times higher than someone of a healthy weight.”

He says sleeve surgery and gastric bypass were also increasingly beneficial for people with weight-related diabetes. “Post-surgery, the effects on insulin have been fast and dramatic – due to the metabolic effect of the operation. In about 50 per cent of cases people resolve their diabetes; some people come to hospital on diabetic medication and leave without it or else resolve their diabetes in the weeks and months that follow.”

By Jane Worthington