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YouTube video brings N.C. man to Riverhead for surgery

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When Riverhead surgeon Agostino Cervone began posting videos of surgical procedures he’s done on YouTube, he intended he videos to be instructional — not marketing — tools.

But this week the tech-savvy surgeon performed an operation on a man from North Carolina who found Cervone’s YouTube video of a ventral hernia repair and was impressed with his approach.

LeRay Dandy, 51, a nuclear engineer from Wilmington, N.C., had consulted with surgeons at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke, but decided to have Cervone do the procedure at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

“I had seen several surgeons in North Carolina. They have some very fine medical institutions down there,” Dandy said in a phone interview Thursday. “But I was most impressed with Dr. Cervone’s approach,” Dandy said. “I did a lot of research and that’s what I came up with.”

Among other things, he liked the Riverhead surgeon’s use of dissolvable tacks. “In six to nine months, I won’t have any kind of metal in there,” Dandy said. “He uses a very high-quality mesh. And his was the least-invasive procedure I found.”

Cervone performs the hernia repair laparoscopically, inserting a tiny camera and surgical tools through the wall of the abdomen, rather than opening the patient for standard surgery. The result is a less-invasive procedure and a more rapid recovery.

Dandy liked that he was able to watch Cervone’s work on the video.

“I really was impressed with how methodical and how meticulous he is when performing the surgery,” Dandy said. “In the video you can see that he takes a lot of care in excising the material so that the mesh would fix to the inner lining of the wall very well.
I was extremely impressed with that. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of skill.”

Other surgeons who wanted to do an open surgery told Dandy recovery would require four weeks time out of work.

“It went from four weeks [recovery] to one week,” he said. Dandy, an engineer in General Electric’s nuclear division, which designs and builds nuclear reactors, said the shortened recovery time sealed the deal for him.

Dandy and his wife flew to Long Island last weekend and Cervone operated on Dandy Monday morning. Dandy stayed overnight at PBMC and spent the rest of the week at the Holiday Inn Express, until a post-op checkup by the surgeon on Friday morning, where the doctor cleared him to return home.

“I was able to walk around the first day,” Dandy said. “I was a bit sore, but that’s to be expected,” he said.

This week saw another milestone for Cervone and PBMC. The surgeon performed his — and the hospital’s — first single-site robotic cholecystectomy — gall bladder removal.

PBMC surgeons have been doing robotic surgery there since the hospital acquired the daVinci robotic surgical system in 2010. Last month, the hospital upgraded to the latest generation of robotic surgical equipment offered by daVinci.

Cervone has for some time been performing non-emergency cholecystectomies laparoscopically. This year, the federal Food and Drug Administration approved use of the robot for cholecystectomies, Cervone said.

He liked doing the procedure with the robot, Cervone said in an interview this week. The instruments, inserted through a single port via an incision in the patient’s belly button, are easier to use than the standard laparoscopic instruments, Cervone said.

In laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon, manipulates the instruments directly inside the patient. He or she views the inside of the patient’s body on a monitor, the images taken by a tiny camera inserted through the surgical port.

Using the robot, Cervone said, “You don’t have to deal with having your hands or the instruments hit each other.”

The surgeon sits at a console and manipulates the robotic surgical instruments remotely. Unlike standard laparoscopy, the surgeon can see what he’s doing in high-definition 3D. And the precision of the robotic tools are beyond compare, Cervone said.

Federal regulators have been approving use of the robot for more types of procedures, Cervone said, and he expects that trend to continue.

The surgeon said in 2013 he will begin doing hernia repairs like the one he performed laparoscopically on Dandy this week with the daVinci robot.

“We’re excited to bring these opportunities both to the members of the community at large and to the medical community,” PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell said in a press release last month announcing the hospital’s installation of the new robot. “It’s another example of our commitment to providing a forward-focused return on the investment the community has made and continues to make in us.”

Photo caption: Riverhead surgeon Agostino Cervone and his patient LeRay Dandy at a post-surgical checkup Friday morning in the surgeon’s Commerce Drive office. 

RiverheadLOCAL photo by Peter Blasl