FORT GORDON, Ga. (Aug. 20, 2014) -- The Eisenhower Army Medical Center here is the first U.S. Army medical treatment facility, and the only medical center in the Central Savannah River Area, to offer endoscopic procedures using the Apollo OverStitch Endoscopic Suturing System.

This system enables surgeons to do a wide range of bariatric procedures and gastrointestinal repairs without complicated surgery where a patient's abdominal cavity is opened for the repair.

"The technology has been available in the U.S. since 2011, but it is still in its infancy," said Andrea Dinnen, market development manager for Apollo Endosurgery.

She said the equipment is new to most medical centers, and Eisenhower Army Medical Center, or EAMC, is only the third facility in Georgia to get the equipment.

The new tools allow for less invasive procedures for patients at EAMC, such as repairs to stomach pouches and stomach outlets in patients who are regaining weight after a weight loss surgery, such as a lap band procedure.

Col. Yong Choi, Chief, Laparoscopic Surgery, explains that when a gastric bypass or weight loss surgery is performed, the stomach pouch is reduced to hold less food and in some cases the opening where the stomach connects to small intestine is too large and food goes right through without allowing the patient to feel full.

"In those instances, you would make the opening smaller. In the past you would have to do surgery for that and, whether you did it with laparoscopic instruments or by a big incision in the abdomen, either way, you would have scarring," said Choi.

"This device allows you to go through the mouth using a scope into the [stomach] pouch without incisions and you can suture the tissue from the inside so you make that opening much smaller. When you are done, there aren't any scars and we are able to make the opening about 40 percent smaller than it was.

The first procedure at EAMC was done for outlet reduction on a patient who regained weight after weight loss surgeries but the equipment can also be used if a patient has an opening or tear in the colon or rectum.

If a patient has an opening or tear, you can avoid invasive surgery by using a colonoscope through the rectum and find the area and suture it without incisions in the abdomen.

"It is really a great patient benefit; they don't have to undergo a major operation. Laparoscopy is certainly less risky than open surgery, and this is an even less invasive approach," said Dinnen. "You are minimizing the risk to the patient that comes with having a major operation."

"Having the Endoscopic Suturing System here at Eisenhower is great for patient care. It allows us to help patients that we might not been able to in the past," said Choi.

For some patients, a reduction in the opening of the small intestine might be too dangerous and that patient wouldn't have been able to get the procedure without this device.

"It's not just an option that is better than an incision, for some patients this is the only option available," Choi explained. "This equipment opens up a whole new territory of things we can do at Eisenhower with state-of-the-art care."