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Robotic surgery offers quick return after gallstones

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MANDEVILLE, La. – It can run in families, or maybe caused by lifestyle, doctors are unsure why someone gets gallstones.

The pain can be so severe it will send you to the emergency room.

But now there is a new, quick way to treat the problem.

Dr. Chris Casten, 50, knew for a while he had many gallstones. He runs a busy veterinary clinic in Mandeville, Louisiana, and didn’t want to be away from work too long. Several weeks ago, he got very sick when one of the stones lodged in a bile duct.

“I turned jaundice, very intense pain,” said Dr. Chris Casten.

Doctors can easily see on an ultrasound, the big, calcified gallstones in the eggplant-shaped gallbladder. Some can be free moving, but when they get stuck, there’s trouble.

“When it gets blocked, the bacteria overgrow and that leads to the infection which we call the gallbladder attack,” said Dr. Puneet Singha, a radiologist at East Jefferson General Hospital.

So Dr. Casten turned to Dr. Joseph Uddo Junior at East Jefferson General Hospital for a new way to take the gallbladder out.

“Great cosmetic results. Quick return to normal activity. Patients have been very satisfied with it,” said board-certified general surgeon Dr. Joseph Uddo Junior, who practices at East Jefferson General Hospital.

Dr. Uddo uses the da Vinci robot. But instead of three or four small incisions, this new way, just FDA approved this year, goes through only one port in the belly button. The surgeon sits at a 3D control panel and can manipulate three hands or graspers and a camera. They are more flexible and can move in ways the hands and wrists of a surgeon can. The gallbladder can easily be seen by the surgeon being put in a container and pulled through the small incision in the navel. It takes 36 to 50 minutes and while the patient is under general anesthesia.

“The preliminary studies show that there is a decreased risk of blood loss in this very precise approach to this surgery,” explained Dr. Uddo.

Right now there are only 60 surgeons in the country doing this type of gallbladder surgery through one opening and doctors say it takes away any tremor that they have in their hands

Willow, the young Airedale being treated by Dr. Casten, quickly had her veterinarian back, scar-free.

“The next day I actually was back to work. I did half a day here. Had some minimal abdominal discomfort for a few days, but nothing, you know, it felt like just someone doing too many sit-ups,” said Dr. Casten.

The symptoms of gallstones are pain in the upper right abdomen, bloating, belching, cramping after eating certain foods, and sometimes fever and chills.