Single-incision gall bladder surgery helps South Texans recover more easily

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by Wendy Rigby / KENS 5

kens5.com

Posted on May 4, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 6:18 PM

SAN ANTONIO -- Gall bladder disease is so common in San Antonio that our city is considered the gall bladder capital of the United States. Now, one local surgeon is using a new technique to treat the problem through one tiny incision.

19-year-old Jacob Martinez of San Antonio is getting ready to have his gall bladder removed. He’s been hurting for awhile.
 
“I’ve had pain in my lower abdomen, higher abdomen,” Martinez explained. “It would get like sort of crampy. And it hurts. Really hurts.”
 
Martinez’ surgeon, Dr. Allen Alvarez, used a new technique. He operated through a single tiny incision near the belly button to remove the gall bladder.
 
Three flexible instruments and a camera are inserted through a single port. The DaVinci robot is the powerful tool that makes the procedure possible.
 
The doctor guides the tools from a console several feet away. He is able to see what he is doing in great detail.
 
“The visualization is actually 12 times the magnification,” Alvarez said. “It’s also in 3D. So I have three-dimensional visualization. So my precision, my accuracy, is incredible.
 
The organ is drained of fluids and removed through the one small hole. The entire process takes about an hour.
 
Patients often go home the same day and they are back to work in about a week.
 
Alvarez has no shortage of patients. In 2010 alone, surgeons removed 7,000 gall bladders in San Antonio. Diets full of fat and sugar can lead to the condition.
 
“I talk to my patients about nutrition,” Alvarez emphasized. “I get them on a healthy lifestyle to make healthy choices through their whole entire life. So that they kind of see that this gall bladder is a wake-up call to what’s really underlying.”
 
Single site gall bladder removal with the robot should save a lot of suffering and recovery time for many South Texans.
 
Alvarez is one of a handful of surgeons in Texas trained in this technique. He has the first in San Antonio to remove gall bladders this way. He’s performed five of the procedures at Baptist Medical Center in the last month.
 

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