Minimally Invasive Surgery

Find Out Why Laparoscopic Surgery Is Better Than Traditional Surgery Techniques

Traditional Open Surgery.

Minimally invasive surgery is a technique that uses several tiny half inch long incisions to insert surgical instruments and a very small camera into the body.  The surgeon then uses a monitor displaying images from the camera to perform the procedure.  This type of procedure is also referred to as laparoscopic procedure or laparoscopic surgery.

Traditionally, surgery has been done using a larger incision, the surgeon then was able to see the procedure and use instruments through the opening created by the incision.

  This technique is referred to as an “open” surgery or a “traditional approach”.

Why is Minimally Invasive Surgery Better?

Laparoscopic surgery is, as the name suggested, less invasive than open procedures.  Remember that an incision doesn’t just cut through the skin, it also cuts through muscle, fat and other tissues of the body.  Having several tiny incisions instead of a full sized incision means less damage to the body and quicker healing.  

Smaller incisions experience less stress during the healing process than larger ones.  Imagine that you have a four inch long incision on your abdomen.  There will be many sutures or staples helping to keep that incision closed so that it can withstand the stress of movement, and including forceful movements such as coughing or sneezing.  Some patients may have a hernia at the surgical site in the years following surgery, as the muscle and tissue didn’t return to full strength during the healing process.


Now imagine three or four half inch long incisions, one of which is tucked neatly into your belly button.  Those incisions will require far less support and are much more likely to heal with full strength, as the muscle and tissue have sustained far less damage. A hernia is still possible, but far less likely.

Smaller incisions also mean less pain.  Less pain means a faster recovery.  In fact, some surgeries have significantly shorter healing times with the less invasive methods. Take for instance a hysterectomy.  A traditional open abdominal hysterectomy typically required a 6 week or longer recovery.  Many patients report returning to their normal, low stress activities in two weeks.  High impact activities, such as running, and lifting heavy objects may have to wait a few more weeks, but the average recovery time is vastly improved. Your incisions will still require diligent care to prevent infection, but they will likely heal faster than than a single larger incision. 

Can All Surgeries Be Done Laparoscopically?

No.  Some surgeries are not able to be done using minimally invasive techniques, but you can expect the number of surgeries done in this manner to continue to increase. Open heart surgery, by its very definition, is done using an open technique which requires the sternum to be cut in order to access the heart.

  A heart bypass operation would still require that same incision.  

That said, procedures that used to be done as an open heart procedure, such as the closure of a “hole in the heart” can be done during a heart catheterization, which threads instruments into the heart from a puncture in a blood vessel in the leg.  Advances are being made every day that helps decrease the number of surgeries that require large incisions.

What About the Risks of Minimally Invasive Surgery?

When comparing the risks of traditional surgery with minimally invasive surgery, the minimally invasive procedure wins every time when performed by a skilled surgeon.  In some cases, a surgery may start with a laparoscopic approach and the surgeon may decide it is necessary to convert to a traditional approach, meaning they will make the larger open incision and proceed in that manner.  

Laparoscopic surgeries can also take longer to perform, which means more anesthesia and increased anesthesia risks.  That risk has to be weighed against the lower risks of complications, and is a very individualized decision that the surgeon is best prepared to make.  Keep in mind that some surgeons were trained using minimally invasive techniques and others were trained using open techniques and that may lead them to prefer one over the other. Whichever you choose, make sure you choose a surgeon who is skilled and experienced with the procedure.

All surgeries have risks, and changing the incision can decrease many of those, but not all of them.  A smaller incision can still become infected, a reaction to anesthesia is still possible, and some patients are poor candidates for minimally invasive surgery--usually due to their weight.  Minimally invasive does not mean risk free, you still have to do your research to find a skilled surgeon, a facility with an excellent reputation for great surgical outcomes, and follow instructions for the best possible recovery.


Outcomes and Cost Analysis of Laparoscopic Versus Open Appendectomy For Treatment of Acute Appendicitis.  Medscape. Accessed April, 2014.

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