A rare and complicated operation has been successfully performed with a robot at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center on a 13-year-old boy born with a serious defect in his digestive system. The hospital promises that the technique will soon be used to perform similar surgery on toddlers.

The operation, which has rarely been performed in the world and never before in Israel, was carried out at the Haifa hospital last Thursday. The boy, who lives with this family in the Haifa area, suffered all his life from a congenital defect, which caused his food to rise from his stomach and return to his esophagus and into his trachea and respiratory system.

This condition, called reflux, can cause irreparable damage to the lungs as well as heartburn, vomiting and heavy coughing. The teenager also suffered from other limitations that caused repeated infections and endangered his life During the four-hour operation, the pediatric surgeons and support staff made tiny cuts in his upper abdomen to reach with tiny tubes where his esophagus is connected to his stomach and used the upper part of the stomach to strengthen and wrap around the end of the food tube. Then they created a flexible passageway from the stomach to the small intestine, ending the reflux. The boy was taken to pediatric intensive care for 24 hours and then to the pediatric surgery department. He is recovering nicely, his doctors said.

“Robot surgery using devices such as the Da Vinci robot, was introduced at Rambam a few years ago,” said Dr. Ran Steinberg, head of pediatric and youth surgery. “As surgeons got more experienced, they used the technology for additional medical cases with much success, leading to their certainty that it can be adapted and used even on very small children. Robots don’t perform the surgery, but guide the surgeon to be much more exact. They also reduce manpower needs and reduce complications.”

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