No one wants an operation, but if you have to have one, the less invasive the surgery the better. For patients suffering from any number of conditions, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) can provide the best choice for a wide range of procedures such as hernia repair, colon resection, appendectomy, gallbladder removal, bariatric or weight-loss surgery and procedures to prevent heartburn.

As more patients become knowledgeable about MIS and request it, more health care providers will have to become skilled at offering these newer techniques.

Surgical advantages

When compared to traditional surgery, minimally invasive surgery can potentially result in swifter recovery and much less pain. Depending on the procedure, patients may leave the hospital the same day – or in a few days – and return to normal activities more quickly than patients recovering from traditional open surgery.

During a minimally invasive procedure, a surgeon makes several small incisions (often less than an inch) or no incisions while performing a procedure through the mouth or rectum. A miniature camera (usually a laparoscope or endoscope) is then placed through one of the incisions in the mouth or rectum, and then images from the camera are projected onto monitors in the operating room so surgeons can get a clear and magnified view of the surgical area. Specialized surgical tools through small incisions or an endoscope are used to perform the procedure.

“Patients ... must educate themselves about the data, knowledge and training available on minimally invasive techniques.”

Increasing usage

Despite the advantages, studies have shown that laparoscopic surgical procedures are not offered as an option to hundreds of thousands of patients in the US who are candidates for MIS. Also, many hospitals underutilize MIS procedures. If surgeons at hospitals that more often used open surgical procedures increased their average rates of MIS to match hospitals that used MIS the most, a recent Johns Hopkins study showed that could result in 170,000 fewer hospital days, 4,306 fewer postoperative complications and 337 million dollars saved annually.

Knowledge is power. To learn how to prepare for – and what happens during – MIS, ask your physician or search the web for Patient Information Brochures on common MIS procedures including anti-reflux surgery or GERD, laparoscopic surgery for severe (morbid) obesity, laparoscopic gallbladder removal or cholecystectomy, and laparoscopic hernia repair. To increase the adoption rate in safe and effective MIS procedures, patients and referring physicians must educate themselves about the data, knowledge and training available on minimally invasive techniques.