Dr. Santiago Adds to St. Joseph's Hospital Robotics Team

Cesar Santiago, MD, positions the da Vinci robot, assisted by Lisa Lockhart, SJB robotics program coordinator.

He likes racing power boats.  He is an avid cyclist.  And he is a robotic surgeon!
He is Cesar Santiago, MD, colorectal surgeon, who was St. Joseph's Hospital's first surgeon to perform transanal laparoscopic surgery and the first to perform robotic colon surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital.  These revolutionary procedures spare critical, hard to reach anatomy.  For some patients, this saves them from what could have been life tethered to a colostomy bag. 
"Colon cancer can be serious but, if caught early, it can be treated," Dr. Santiago explained.  Unfortunately, many people don't recognize the symptoms and he is diagnosing patients at a younger and younger age.
"Fifty percent of the population will have an anal/rectal complaint, such as rectal bleeding, and they shrug it off as hemorrhoids.  They don't want to talk about it.  But I like to encourage everyone to 'Be seen, get screened'."
In addition to rectal bleeding, other symptoms to address include changes in stool and unexplained weight loss.  Prompt medical attention is recommended, especially for people with a family history of colon cancer or a family member who was diagnosed at an early age.
"Don't be in denial," Dr. Santiago stressed.
Screening is usually recommended at age 50 but, as Dr. Santiago pointed out, "The earlier you catch it, the better."
Dr. Santiago's work is inspired by the memory of his own mother, who recently lost her 13-year battle with colorectal and breast cancers.  That may explain his relentless passion for topics that some find taboo.
"I see people faced with colon cancer, rectal cancer, diverticulitis, Crohn's disease and many other concerns that they would really rather not discuss," said Dr. Santiago who has had extensive training specifically for colon and rectal surgery.  "My goal is to help them address their health issues so they can go on to enjoy life."
For those with rectal cancer, Dr. Santiago often finds the best treatment option is robotic-assisted surgery, which is a minimally invasive option for complex surgeries. This state-of-the-art surgical platform offers 3D, high definition vision for a remarkable look inside the body without the need for open surgery.  It also lets the surgeon manipulate instruments in small spaces with great precision.  Patients experience less pain, minimal blood loss, less scarring, fewer complications, shorter recovery time and a faster return to normal daily activities. 
 In 2002, St. Joseph's Hospital was the first in hospital in Florida to use the da Vinci robotic surgery system for general surgery.  Today, more than 40 different robotics procedures are offered by 17 surgeons using two robots - one at St. Joseph's Hospital and one at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital.  St. Joseph's continues to blaze a trail by adding physicians with specialized services, such as Dr. Santiago, and also Dr. Ethan Polsky, who is the only surgeon in the area who performs pediatric pyeloplasty - surgery to correct a urinary obstruction. 
"It is unusual to have so many specialties being done in the same place," Dr. Santiago said, "We're also very fortunate to have the most experienced OR team in the area.  The team is just wonderful!" 
Other HealthPoint Robotic Surgeons:
     Colorectal Surgery - Cesar Santiago, MD
     General and Bariatic Surgery - David F. Echevarria, MD; C.R. Hall, MD
     Pediatric Surgery - Tuan Pham, MD

Article reprinted from St. Joseph's Hospital's Chat News, September 2012 Issue.

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