Holy Name Medical Center Blog

The Benefits of Robotic Bariatric Surgery

Posted by Stefanie Vaimakis, MD, Medical Director of Bariatric Services at Holy Name Medical Center on July 24, 2019
Stefanie Vaimakis, MD, Medical Director of Bariatric Services at Holy Name Medical Center

For anyone who has tried to lose just 10 pounds, you know how difficult it can be. You lose a few, then gain a couple back. It can seem like a vicious cycle. Now imagine how hard it must be to lose a significant amount of weight.

Bariatric – or weight-loss surgery - which reduces the size of the stomach, has been shown to be an effective tool to help people with obesity achieve and maintain a healthier weight.


Holy Name Medical Center is designated a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Holy Name's bariatric surgeons perform all weight-loss surgeries using the surgical da Vinci robot. Robotic bariatric surgery offers patients enhanced benefits, including more precise surgical capabilities, a quicker recovery, and only an overnight hospital stay. By far, one of the most important benefits is that patients often only need over-the-counter pain relief medication, rather than narcotic pain medication therapy.

Holy Name is one of the few hospitals in the area where bariatric surgery is performed robotically.

Obesity Risks

The number of people suffering from obesity has almost tripled over the last two decades, as reported by the World Health Organization. Obesity means that you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. And this can put you at risk for a number of health conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress urinary incontinence

Resistant to Weight Loss

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some individuals affected by severe obesity (a BMI of over 40, carrying more than 100 pounds of excess weight) can be resistant to long-term weight loss by diet and exercise. For this reason, a panel of NIH experts acknowledges that it's nearly impossible for those affected by severe obesity to lose a significant amount of weight by any means other than bariatric surgery.

"Obesity is a lifelong, life-threatening condition, which can significantly reduce life expectancy and contribute to debilitating medical conditions," says Dr. Vaimakis. "Bariatric surgery is the best long-term solution for obesity, and can potentially put type 2 diabetes into remission, reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, ease asthma and sleep apnea, lessen joint pain, and relieve stress urinary incontinence."

Surgical Weight-loss Techniques

Several bariatric surgical techniques have been developed over the last 50 years, including the gastric sleeve procedure, which reduces the size of the stomach to about 15% of its original size and reduces significantly the production of hormones that cause hunger cues. Gastric bypass surgery divides the stomach into a small upper pouch and a larger lower pouch, thus reducing the amount of food that passes through. Fat and calories cannot be absorbed.

Robotic Surgery's Improved Techniques

Both the gastric sleeve procedure and gastric bypass surgery have shown much success, but in recent years they have also been improved upon through the use of robotic bariatric surgery.

During robotic bariatric surgery, the surgeon sits at a console near the patient, which allows her/him to operate more precisely and comfortably on patients of all sizes. The robot is positioned above the patient on the operating table, while an assistant surgeon stands next to the patient.

High-definition 3-D computer and camera technology help to guide the surgeon, who views the surgical field on a monitor, as she/he uses hand controls that resemble joysticks. The robot translates these hand movements in real time to perform the surgery with specialized instruments inserted through tiny incisions in the patient's abdomen. The robot's "wristed" technology – which can bend and rotate far more than a human wrist – results in extreme surgical precision.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

Dr. Vaimakis points to a number of benefits that result from having bariatric surgery performed robotically:

  • Reduced pain and discomfort; no need for narcotic pain medication
  • Smaller incisions, resulting in reduced risk of infection
  • A one-night hospital stay
  • Reduced blood loss and transfusions
  • Minimal scarring
  • Faster recovery time and return to normal activities

"Most patients are sitting up and ready to go home the next morning, with no need for narcotic pain medication," says Dr. Vaimakis.

Choose Holy Name

"There is no better place to undergo robotic bariatric surgery than at Holy Name," says Dr. Vaimakis, who has received special robotic training. The medical center has a dedicated nursing unit, where special equipment and furniture have been designed to make patients more comfortable.

Support for the Future

To understand how bariatric surgery works and what steps need to be taken after surgery to avoid putting weight back on, patients are advised to attend an educational seminar before surgery is scheduled. Nutritional and behavioral changes, and medical care must follow the surgery.

"Surgery is not an easy fix; it is just the beginning," says Dr. Vaimakis. "Patients must make lifelong healthy lifestyle changes."

Don't Wait

Holy Name's accredited Bariatric Services provide adult and adolescent patients with comprehensive state-of-the-art weight-loss treatment options, nutrition counseling, and psychosocial support. Although most insurance plans cover the surgical procedures, patients should check with their provider directly. For more information, call 201-530-1900 or visit holyname.org/bariatrics.