Innovation in Healthcare | chronicleonline.com

Dr. Parth Patel became interested in surgery while he was in medical school in New Jersey. At that time, he saw how bariatric surgery for weight loss could benefit patients – especially with the new minimally invasive robotic (MIS) technique. It was lucky for us when, five years ago, he decided to relocate his family to a warmer climate and start the first bariatric surgery center in Citrus County.

Patel is a board certified bariatric and general surgeon who performs regular, MIS, and laparoscopic surgeries, including bariatric, reflux, hernia, colorectal, GI, and breast as well as other general surgery procedures at Bravera Health Seven Rivers Hospital. Since he relocated to Citrus County, he has performed hundreds of minimally invasive bariatric procedures, leading to better health and fewer complications for patients.

“Citrus County didn’t offer weight loss surgery before I got here. Patients had to travel to Tampa or Orlando. There were also no robotic surgery options. Now we have five robots here in the county. That’s more per population than The Villages or Brooksville,” he said. “There’s such a difference in recovery with MIS and now people don’t have to travel.”

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Bariatric surgery is not cosmetic – it is done only for health reasons, Patel stressed. And with a 26 percent obesity rate in Florida, there are a lot of patients who meet the criteria.

“This is a rigorous, multi-discipline process, not a one-time thing,” he said, noting that prior to surgery, patients undergo physical, psychological, and dietetic counseling. But the program is steadily growing. Patel performed the procedure on more than 100 Citrus County residents in 2021.

Bariatric surgery is one of the few procedures that offer so many benefits, Patel said.

“It’s unusual for a surgeon to see a procedure that affects the whole person. Bariatrics does that. You see improvement in blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea. With other surgeries, there is satisfaction in fixing one problem. With bariatrics, you see head to toe changes.”

With the smaller incisions, MIS is a more complex technique for the surgeon, but the complication risk for patients is much lower – and the recovery time much shorter.

“Most patients having minimally invasive bariatric surgery can go back to work in three days,” said Patel. “It used to be six weeks.”

Bariatrics was one of the first fields to use MIS. Now Patel, who is fellowship trained in MIS and robotics, uses the technique for colon resections, hernia and gallbladder surgeries, and other procedures.

“It’s important because you have to use the best tool for achieving the goal,” he said. “I was fortunate that when I was training to be a surgeon, these options were already out there. Robotics, or computer-assisted surgery, is safer. Doctors are still performing the procedure, but the robot helps make things more precise. Technology helps us.”

Because of MIS, “We have the ability to do complex procedures right here,” Patel added. “My goal is to provide the same care a patient would get at Shands in Gainesville or anywhere else, but closer to home.”

MIS has also changed the perception of bariatric surgery, to the point that Bravera Health hardly even advertises the procedure – most of Patel’s referrals are through word of mouth.

“Open surgery on obese patients caused more complications so people feared it,” he said. “But people feel safer having the procedure now. They’ve seen friends and family doing great after MIS.

“It is so rewarding to see my patients a year later. One told me he could go on a roller coaster now – that’s a benefit I didn’t think about,” he added. “Before surgery, I’d see patients come in using a walker or wheelchair, a year later they are walking on their own. They are so much happier.”

Patel, his wife, and two children, ages nine and seven, enjoy living in Citrus County. Patel’s parents recently retired and moved here as well.

“It’s a great place to raise a family and Tampa and Orlando are not far. My parents are enjoying this life too,” he said. “We love the area and I like the medical community as well.”

Surgery is not a one-person field, and this Healthcare Innovation award is shared by many, said Patel.

“Surgery is kind of like a movie. There are hundreds of people involved in its making. We’re like the actors but I never forget about all the people – from the medical assistants to the office manager, the OR staff, the nurses who take care of patients before and after surgery – who make it successful. Patients may never see them, but they are essential. I’m thankful for having a great team.”

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