Natchez surgeon completes 1000th robotic-assisted surgery

Published 8:50 am Monday, November 6, 2023

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Dr. Geoffrey Flattmann reached a milestone this week, and it’s one he’s excited to share with the community.

Flattmann completed his 1000th robotic assisted surgery on Wednesday at Merit Health Natchez, making him a forerunner in the field.

“I’m very proud I’ve gotten to this point,” he said. “There’s such a sharp learning curve in robotic surgery. I got to 500 surgeries in 2020 and thought that was a big deal, but it’s become so much more applicable since then.”

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The use of robotic-assisted technology virtually extends the surgeon’s eyes and hands. Using the system, the surgeon operates while seated at a console viewing a 3-D image of the surgical area. The system mimics the surgeon’s hand movements in real time, in a smaller scale, within the operating site in the patient’s body. Benefits recognized by surgeons using the robotic-assisted technology over traditional surgical approaches include greater surgical precision, enhanced visualization, increased range of motion of the instruments and improved access to the surgical site.

Flattman, who is a general surgeon, said he has the benefit of having watched robotic surgery technology be introduced and develop. “In the ‘80s and ‘90s when I was training, we learned surgery from the old guys … then saw the advent of laparoscopic surgery and then the development of robotic surgery.”

And this new iteration has yielded tremendous benefits, both for patients and surgeons.

In robotic surgery, the surgeon directs robotic arms from a sterile console, while the patient is attended bedside by nurses, anesthesiologists and surgery technicians. The surgery is minimally invasive, and by utilizing the cameras on the end of the articulated robotic arms, surgeons are able to see a three-dimensional view of the operating field, as opposed to a 2D field in laparoscopic surgery. The “very sophisticated piece of technology” is controlled by the surgeon.

“I tell my patients to imagine if I could miniaturize myself and jump inside their body to perform the surgery, that’s what we’re doing,” Flattmann said.

While robotic surgery initially was used in urology and gynecology, Flattmann said the application continues to expand in general surgery, being utilized for procedures that range from hernia repairs to colon surgery or gallbladder surgeries.

Benefits recognized by these patients may include significantly less pain; less blood loss; less risk of infection; shorter hospital stay; quicker recovery and minimal scarring.

Merit Health Natchez has performed more than 2,000 robotic surgeries, and Flattman said he expects that trend to grow in the future.

In part, he said, because of the efficiency of the technology but more importantly because of the robotic surgery team in place at Merit, whom the surgeon described as exceptional. “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our team,” he said. “I may be the robotic surgeon, but without the incredible robotic team we wouldn’t get anything done … we are blessed with an incredible OR crew.”

And, he said, the crew’s expertise and the level of care provided in Natchez rivals and exceeds larger markets, in part because the men and women on the team have deep ties to the community. “The biggest thing for me is for people to understand the incredible professionalism, compassion and ethical care provided by the nurses and techs in the operating room who live here and care for their neighbors.”

With that crew at his side, Flattmann said he looks forward to the advances that the next 1,000 robotic surgeries will bring.

“I want people to know we’re not just ‘keeping up’ with the technology; we’re a little ahead of the curve … and we plan to stay there.”

“We congratulate Dr. Flattmann on this amazing milestone achievement in his robotic-assisted surgery cases,” said Kevin Samrow, CEO of Merit Health Natchez.  “The robotic surgery program at Merit Health Natchez is making a difference in people’s lives.  With our skilled surgeons and exceptional team of Anesthesia, Surgery and Post Anesthesia Care, people in our community can be assured this team is focused on patient safety, care and comfort.”

In addition to Dr. Flattmann, the following physicians perform procedures with the robotic surgery system at Merit Health Natchez:  Dr. Christopher Martin, General Surgeon; and Obstetricians and Gynecologists Dr. Frank Guedon and Dr. Melissa Jones. The most common procedures using the robotic-assisted system are hernia repairs, gallbladder, colon, single incision surgery and hysterectomies.