Minimally Invasive Surgery

Surgery is being molded to reach ever-higher goals of patient care, comfort and efficiency. Surgeons, specialists and researchers are working together to create procedures to advance the field of surgery, and nowhere is this more evident than within Penn Surgery at Penn Medicine. Learn more about minimally invasive surgery at these locations:

Penn Surgery is comprised of surgical teams at each of its three hospitals: Pennsylvania Hospital, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. These surgeons are working to improve and develop procedures for patients from the Delaware Valley and around the world, particularly in the field of minimally invasive surgery.

In fact, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the few Centers of Surgical Excellence in the country, which emphasizes education to both research and teach minimally invasive surgical procedures. Our commitment to this field is evident in our new surgical suite at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, specifically designed with the latest technology for minimally invasive procedures, including robotics, an array of flat screen monitors, and ergonomically-correct, permanently-mounted surgical tools.

Minimally Invasive Surgery
Minimally invasive surgical techniques, commonly referred to as keyhole techniques, belly-button surgery, or laparoscopy, were aggressively developed in the 1990s. Using these techniques, surgeons can diagnose or treat patients, and in some cases remove or repair a part of the body, without performing a major incision during surgery. In fact, they are able to operate through much smaller incisions that ever before.

Traditional abdominal surgery requires a large incision in the abdomen to divide skin and muscle in order to provide the surgeon with a direct view of the body's interior. Using minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon makes several small incisions or uses one of the body's natural openings to insert several long, thin tubes called canulas.

A special needle with carbon dioxide gas is inserted to inflate the body's interior and provide the surgeon with room to operate. The surgeon inserts specialized instruments through the canulas to operate on the body's internal region. A tiny camera transmits an image of the body's interior to a video screen. This powerful imaging technology enables surgeons to reach their intended area within the body quickly and precisely.

When a surgeon performs a "belly-button surgery", this is through the navel. Laparoscopy is an examination of the abdominal cavity through a laparoscope, a slender tube that is equipped with a tiny video camera and a light source that provides surgeons with a clear magnified view of the patient's internal organs on a video screen or monitor. The surgeon watches the image of the body's interior on the monitor as a guide throughout the procedure.

In comparison to traditional surgery, minimally invasive surgery has the following advantages:

  • Less trauma to the body
  • Reduced post-operative pain
  • Enhanced cosmetic effect (smaller scars)
  • Reduced length of stay in hospital (usually same-day surgery or one night in the hospital)
  • Reduced post-surgical recovery and quicker return to normal activities, including work.

Unfortunately, not every patient is a candidate for this type of procedure, therefore you should speak to your physician about your surgical options. Although minimally invasive surgery is less invasive than traditional "open" surgery, no surgery is minor. Surgeons who perform minimally invasive surgery advise patients to remember that these procedures have many benefits, but they also carry the risks of traditional surgery.

Patients who schedule a minimally invasive surgery should prepare for bed rest immediately following the procedure and several weeks of recovery. In most cases, minimally invasive surgeries require general anesthesia and therefore, patients should abstain from food or drink after midnight prior to their procedure.

Minimally invasive procedures are performed in a variety of specialties throughout the University of Pennsylvania Health System, including:

See also:


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