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Use of Robotics in Bariatric Surgery is on the Rise

Davinci Surgical Robot

Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, is an effective tool that can help people with obesity lose weight and keep it off. Minimally invasive weight loss surgery uses smaller incisions than traditional open surgery, so patients who are treated with minimally invasive surgical techniques usually have fewer complications, a shorter hospital stay and a much faster recovery than with open surgery.

Washington University weight loss surgeons provide minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic bariatric surgery options for appropriate patients. Robotic surgery is a growing field that uses new robotic surgical technology to perform minimally invasive procedures. The use of robotics in bariatric surgery is a recent development, and not all institutions provide robotic weight loss surgery.

New research from the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, published March 30 in Obesity Surgery, shows that the use of robotics for weight loss surgery has increased over time. The paper also identified factors associated with receiving robotic surgery.

The research examined more than 200,000 bariatric cases from 2015 to 2018, using the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program database. The findings showed that, among patients who had minimally invasive sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, the percentage of cases using the robotic approach increased over time.

“The robot is a great innovative tool,” says first author Francesca Dimou, MD, MS. “It improves ergonomics and provides 3D visualization that allows me to do bariatric surgery while mitigating certain technical aspects that might be encountered during a bariatric operation.”

Dimou is a fellowship-trained minimally invasive and bariatric surgeon who has performed hundreds of robotic surgery cases.

The study, led by surgeons from the Bariatric Surgery Program at Washington University and researchers from the Division of Public Health Sciences, also found that certain patient-related factors, including health problems related to obesity, were associated with the receipt of robotic surgery. Further investigations will aim to better understand the indications for robotic weight loss surgery.

“When people ask me what option is best, I tell them that it depends,” Dimou says. “It’s not as simple as saying everyone gets robotic surgery, or everyone gets a sleeve gastrectomy. We tailor care to our patients to give them the right surgery.”