Minimally Invasive Surgery - General Information
What is minimally invasive surgery? — Minimally invasive surgery is a type of surgery that uses special tools that are designed to decrease the size of incisions and reduce how much the body’s tissues get damaged. One kind of minimally invasive surgery involves the use of a “scope,” a viewing device that allows surgeons to look inside the body without opening it up all the way. Another type, called “endovascular surgery,” uses X-rays to see inside the body while the surgeon uses special devices that fit inside the blood vessels. This article is about the type of surgery that involves scopes.
There are several different types of scopes, but they all work in roughly the same way. They consist of a long, thin tube with a tiny camera and a light on the end. The camera sends pictures of the inside of the body to a TV screen. When doing this type of surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision just big enough for the scope to fit through. He or she also makes 2 or more other incisions that slim tools can fit through. These tools include clamps, scissors, and stitching devices, which the surgeon can control from outside the body. While looking at the picture on the screen, the surgeon uses those tools to do the operation.
What are the different types of minimally invasive scope surgery? — There are lots of different types. Their names are based on the body parts that are involved. The scopes used for the different types of surgery are named that way, too:
●Laparoscopes are used in the belly for “laparoscopic surgery.” (“Lapara” is the Greek word for the space between the bottom of the rib cage and the hips.) This type of surgery can be used to remove the gallbladder or the uterus, or to do lots of other different procedures.
●Hysteroscopes are used in the uterus and vagina for “hysteroscopic surgery.” (“Hystera" is the Greek word for womb, or uterus.) This type of surgery can be used to remove abnormal growths in the uterus, or to do a number of different procedures on the uterus and vagina.
●Endoscopes go down your throat and into the esophagus, stomach, bile ducts, or intestines. (“Endo” is the Greek root for inside or within.) Most times these scopes are used just to inspect those body parts. Other times, these scopes are used to do a procedure. This might involve getting a small piece of tissue for testing, or opening an area that is too narrow. During surgery, an endoscope can also be inserted directly into one of these body parts to help the surgeon find the problem.
●Colonoscopes go up your rectum and into the large intestine, or colon. They are similar to endoscopes.
How is minimally invasive surgery different from regular surgery? — In general—not always—this type of surgery makes recovery easier. That's because:
●It usually involves several small wounds, rather than one big one
●The inside of the body does not get as exposed to open air as it would with regular surgery
●The organs don't get moved around as much
Despite all of the differences with regular surgery, minimally invasive surgery is still surgery. People who have it do have some pain, they do often need stitches, and they can develop infections or other problems because of the surgery.
Can patients always choose to have minimally invasive surgery? — No. Many procedures can now be done through a minimally invasive approach. But it's not always up to the patient to choose what type of surgery to have. Whether or not a patient can have this type of surgery will depend on:
●Whether there is a surgeon available who has enough experience doing the type of surgery the patient needs
●Why the patient needs surgery. (As an example, patients who need surgery to remove very large cancers cannot always have minimally invasive procedures.)
●What other health problems the patient might have
Even when a patient starts out having minimally invasive surgery, there's no guarantee that the surgery will stay that way. Sometimes surgeons start out doing minimally invasive surgery and then realize that they need to switch to open surgery. This doesn’t mean the surgeon has done anything wrong; it's just something that happens sometimes after a surgery gets started.
If you go in for minimally invasive surgery, be prepared to wake up and find out that you had open surgery. This could happen for a few different reasons, such as:
●The surgeon found something unexpected when he or she got started
●The surgeon couldn’t see well enough or properly treat the organ he or she was trying to operate on
●Bleeding occurred that could not be controlled with a minimally invasive approach
The important thing to remember is that if a surgeon switches to regular surgery, it is usually to protect the safety of the patient.
Content adapted from UpToDate Patient Information.