Spider weight-loss surgery offers surgeons a new and highly precise approach to commonly performed bariatric procedures. The Spider is a device that has a central arm and two side arms that fold up flat onto the central arm. Once the device is inserted into the patient’s body, the side arms can be expanded outward (like the arms of an umbrella) to gently move the surrounding tissues out of the way and allow the surgeon room to operate. A number of different micro-laparoscopic tools can be inserted through or alongside the Spider to facilitate the surgery.

This technology is an improvement on traditional laparoscopic surgery since it has the potential to leave patients with fewer and smaller scars. However, because the tools used are similar to those surgeons handle every day in other laparoscopic procedures, they don’t have to learn an entirely new skill set. This means patients can confidently trust their weight-loss surgery (WLS) to a surgeon trained in the use of the Spider equipment. As always, patients should choose a surgeon who has plenty of experience performing weight-loss surgery since this is the most important factor in reducing the risk of complications.

What Types of Bariatric Surgery Can Be Done With the Spider?

There are two forms of WLS that can currently be performed using Spider technology: gastric banding and sleeve gastrectomy. Both of these surgeries work by restricting the size of the stomach. They are almost always done using a traditional laparoscopic approach, which makes them ideal for transition to Spider surgery. Gastric bypass and duodenal switch are much more involved since they entail separating the intestines into different sections and rearranging them. They are not currently done using the Spider. However, future advances in surgical techniques might create a way for these more extensive procedures to be done with fewer and smaller incisions as well.

What Is Spider Weight-Loss Surgery Like?

To begin the procedure, the abdominal cavity is inflated using carbon dioxide (an inert gas). This gas helps open up the area to make it easier to maneuver instruments and see the internal organs such as the stomach more clearly. A small incision is made in the belly button and the Spider is inserted into the abdomen. The arms of the Spider are extended to move surrounding tissues out of the way and allow access to the stomach. Tiny laparoscopic tools including a camera and surgical instruments are threaded through the tube to allow the surgeon to operate on the stomach.

In a sleeve gastrectomy (gastric sleeve), the Spider tools are used to separate and remove a portion of the stomach, reducing it in size by about 75 or 80 percent. With the gastric band, the inflatable band is inserted through the incision made in the spider and fixed in place around the upper portion of the stomach, restricting the passage of food. After surgery is complete, the instruments are removed (along with most of the carbon dioxide) and the small incision is closed. Patients may stay overnight in the hospital for observation just as with traditional bariatric surgery.

What Are the Benefits of Spider Weight-Loss Surgery?

The main benefit of this micro-laparoscopic equipment is that it reduces the need for multiple incisions. Instead of five or six incisions, there may be just one or two. Fewer entry points may mean patients have less discomfort and a faster recovery after surgery. There is less disruption to the tissues surrounding the stomach since all tool insertion and tissue removal occurs through the same small opening. The amount of scarring is also greatly reduced. For many patients, only a single incision in the belly button is needed to access the stomach. The scar left in the navel may be hard to see at all after it heals.

Even if multiple incisions are required, they can be made using a special tool called a “MicroLap Incision Pick” that minimizes the size of the incision. Instead of a straight scar left by a scalpel, there may be a smaller scar that’s about the diameter of a freckle. Since skin on the abdomen tends to be somewhat stretchy, the micro-incision can be opened up large enough to insert the instruments and then close back up when they are removed. With just a few stitches, the opening can heal quickly.