YOUR HEALTH: Robots that help patients lose weight

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Teresina Francis is a busy, hard-working mom.  But at 295 pounds, she found that it was all she could do to get through the day.

“I was always tired,” she remembered.  “I was always looking for a reason to not do something.”

“The tipping point for me was that I finally saw myself as a morbidly obese person in the mirror.”

BACKGROUND:   Gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries are major, life-changing procedures.   While weight-loss surgery can help reduce the risk of weight-related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and sleep apnea, it can also pose major risks and complications.   In general, gastric bypass or another weight-loss surgery could be an option if:  efforts to lose weight with diet and exercise have been unsuccessful, the body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher, or the BMI is 35 or more and there is a serious weight-related health problem, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe sleep apnea. (Source:

Frustrated, she turned to laparoscopic gastric surgery using groundbreaking robotic technology.

“The robotic technology allows me to sit at a console, it allows me to operate the hands of the robot which ideally doesn’t cause as much trauma to the patient,” said bariatric surgeon Dr. David Thomas from San Antonio’s Baptist Health System.

The robotic system provides the doctor with vision that is three-dimensional and magnified by ten.

During the procedure, the doctor uses the robot to divide the stomach and remove a large portion of it, leaving a long tube-shaped pouch in place.

It can hold up to ten ounces.

“I didn’t have a lot of pain,” explained Teresina.  “I didn’t have a lot of nausea. It went really well.”

“It’s an amazing thing to see in person,” said Dr. Thomas.   “It really does help the patient recover a lot faster.”

NEW TECHNOLOGY:   Dr. Thomas said “sleeve gastrectomy does not change the way the body absorbs food, only the quantity a person can eat and also their appetite by decreasing ghrelin (because part of the stomach that makes that hormone is removed during sleeve gastrectomy.)   Alternatively, a gastric bypass does alter the amount people can eat and makes it so they do not absorb food as well.   But, the ghrelin part of the stomach stays within the body and is not removed.   So, sleeve causes people to lose weight differently than a gastric bypass.”

“The surgery for me was a huge game changer,” according to Teresina.

“This isn’t the easy way out.  I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to this point. We are outdoors more and we are constantly going and I can keep up instead of falling behind.”

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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