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SAN ANTONIO -- Doctors have a new way to perform bariatric surgery. It s an approach that helps patients recover from their life-changing procedure with less pain.

On Monday, May 7, 2012, in an operating room at Northeast Baptist Hospital, bariatric surgeons Dr. Sonny Cavazos and Dr. J.J. Gonzalez performed a gastric sleeve operation in a new way. They used the da Vinci robot, controlling the tools from a console, while the surgical site is magnified in three dimensions.

The visualization is unbelievable, Gonzalez said. You literally see everything in 3D. It s like you re in there. It s like you re in the patient s body.

The instruments move inside the body, creating less post-operative pain than conventional laparoscopy.

The movements with the robot are so precise, Cavazos explained. Not that we re particularly shabby, but the thing is just perfect.

During the hour-and-a-half operation, doctors remove all but 20 percent of the stomach, leaving a tube-like structure.

With 80 percent less stomach, you re only going to be able to accommodate so much food, Gonzalez said. So you re going to get full right away.

Over time, obese patients lose more than 80 percent of their excess weight.

Cavazos and Gonzalez have performed about 10 of these procedures using the robot over the last couple of months.

It s a surgery that can change lives. It s impossible for people who aren t obese to have an appreciation of just what they go through day to day, Cavazos said.

Northeast Baptist Hospital is one of a handful of facilities in San Antonio designated as a Bariatric Center of Excellence. Doctors perform about 40 bariatric procedures at the facility every month.

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