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Albany Medical Center Surgeon Performs Region’s First Robotic Gastric Bypass
   December 18, 2006


ALBANY, N.Y., December 18, 2006—An Albany Medical Center surgeon has successfully performed northeast New York’s first robotic gastric bypass surgery. Using the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System, T. Paul Singh, M.D., director of minimally invasive surgery at Albany Medical Center, recently performed the weight loss surgery on local resident 44-year-old Patricia Garhartt.


Robotic gastric bypass is similar to laparoscopic—or minimally invasive—surgery in that specialized instruments with cameras attached are inserted through small incisions in the patient’s abdomen. Surgeons stand over the patient during laparoscopic surgery, but during robotic surgery, they operate the tools comfortably from a control station while viewing 3-D images of the patient’s abdomen. According to Singh, this is just one advantage the robotic surgical system presents to both the surgeon and the patient.


“The da Vinci system is equipped with smaller, more precise instruments with smoother dexterity. In addition, the surgical site is magnified, so there are better visuals to work with,” says Singh. “The result is smaller incisions and easier manipulation of the instruments, so there is less torsion on the portals within the patient’s abdomen and therefore less discomfort and faster healing for the patient.”


Garhartt, who weighed 260 lbs. prior to the surgery, says the decision to become Singh’s first robotic gastric bypass patient was an easy one.


“When Dr. Singh explained that I may actually have a quicker recovery with the robotic surgery, I was sold. I didn’t want to lose a lot of time at work, and an easier recovery meant I could return to work sooner,” said Garhartt, who works as a web designer for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.


Gastric bypass surgery reduces the size of the stomach by creating a small pouch in the upper stomach. The smaller pouch is reconnected so that it bypasses part of the small intestine, thereby cutting absorption. As a result, patients consume less food because they feel fuller faster.  Surgeons at Albany Med now perform the surgery conventionally (open) and laparoscopically in addition to the new robotic technique.


Garhartt returned to work within four weeks of receiving the surgery. Now more than 50 lbs. lighter, she is already noticing both physical and emotional changes.


“Weight problems don’t only impact you physically. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. Now, I don’t hide anymore,” Garhartt said two months following her surgery. “Even my sleep apnea is cured. Before, I never made it into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. I’m waking up refreshed and I’m even dreaming now, which I haven’t done in years!”


As of December 2, Albany Med’s bariatric surgery program was one of only five programs in New York State and only 24 in the United States to earn accreditation status from the American College of Surgeons (ACS)—the highest level of hospital achievement in bariatric care. As a designated bariatric surgery center, Albany Med is capable of managing the most challenging and complex bariatric patients with optimal opportunity for safe and effective outcome.


Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, has a mission of providing excellence in medical education, biomedical research and patient care.

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