First introduced in the 1980s, minimally invasive surgery has dramatically changed the way many surgical procedures are performed. Liver transplant surgeon Dr. Susan Lim has used minimally invasive robotic surgery techniques for many of the types of operations she performs.
A surgeon begins a traditional surgical procedure by making an incision that is large enough to expose the portion of a person’s anatomy upon which the doctor will be working. The doctor widens the incision to provide an unobstructed view and full working access. Depending upon the type of surgery being performed, the surgeon might have to cut through bone and muscle.
Because of this process, traditional surgery can result in a longer, more painful recovery period. Although there are drawbacks to traditional surgery that can be eliminated or reduced through minimally invasive surgical techniques, not all surgical procedures lend themselves to the use of the small incision process.
Minimally invasive surgery begins with a small incision in which the surgeon inserts an endoscope–a camera and light at the end of a long, flexible tube. The projected image from the camera is displayed on a monitor the surgeon views while performing the operation. The surgeon makes other small incisions to insert other instruments used to perform the procedure. The incisions are normally one-third of an inch, but larger incisions might be required depending upon the type of procedure being performed.
Biomechanical companies have designed different types of endoscopes and surgical tools for use in different surgical procedures. For example, a laparoscope is an endoscope designed for abdominal surgery. Thoracic surgeons and heart surgeons use a thoracoscope to view the chest cavity.
Shorter recovery times, reduced scarring and a reduced risk of infection are reported benefits of minimally invasive surgery. Still, traditional surgical techniques continue to have a place in the operating room. The goal of a surgeon in performing any surgical procedure is to correct a problem as safely as possible by causing the least amount of trauma. Because the patient may spend more time on the operating table during minimally invasive surgery, certain procedures or circumstances may favor traditional surgical procedures.
The decision to use minimally invasive surgery is one that patients must make in consultation with their doctors. No surgical technique can be said to be right for every patient or for every type of procedure. Patients must make an informed decision when choosing some of the newest medical and technological advances.