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Minimally invasive surgery

Medically reviewed on Dec 30, 2017

Overview

In minimally invasive surgery, doctors use a variety of techniques to operate with less damage to the body than with open surgery. In general, minimally invasive surgery is associated with less pain, a shorter hospital stay and fewer complications.

Laparoscopy — surgery done through one or more small incisions, using small tubes and tiny cameras and surgical instruments — was one of the first types of minimally invasive surgery. Another type of minimally invasive surgery is robotic surgery. It provides a magnified, 3-D view of the surgical site and helps the surgeon operate with precision, flexibility and control.

Continual innovations in minimally invasive surgery make it beneficial for people with a wide range of conditions. If you need surgery and think you may be a candidate for this approach, talk with your doctor.

Types of minimally invasive surgery

Surgeons perform many minimally invasive surgeries, including:

  • Adrenalectomy to remove one or both adrenal glands
  • Anti-reflux surgery, sometimes called hiatal hernia repair, to relieve gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Cancer surgery, for example, to destroy a tumor
  • Chest (thoracic) surgery
  • Cholecystectomy, to remove gallstones that cause pain
  • Colectomy to remove parts of a diseased colon
  • Colon and rectal surgery
  • Ear, nose and throat surgery
  • Endovascular surgery to treat or repair an aneurysm
  • Gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) to remove gallstones that cause pain
  • Gastroenterologic surgery, including for gastric bypass
  • General surgery
  • Gynecologic surgery
  • Heart surgery
  • Kidney surgery
  • Living donor kidney transplant
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Splenectomy to remove the spleen
  • Thoracic surgery, such as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) lobectomy
  • Urologic surgery

Why it's done

Minimally invasive surgery emerged in the 1980s as a safe and effective technique to meet the surgical needs of many patients. In the last 20 years, many surgeons have come to prefer it to traditional (open) surgery, which requires larger incisions and, usually, a longer hospital stay.

Since then the use of minimally invasive surgery has expanded widely in many surgical specialties, including colon and lung surgery. Talk with your doctor about whether you would be a good candidate for this surgical approach.

Risks

Minimally invasive surgery uses smaller surgical incisions, and it's generally less risky than traditional surgery. But even with minimally invasive surgery, there are risks of complications with anesthesia, bleeding and infection.

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