Minimally Invasive Surgery vs. Open Surgery

With every year that passes, more and more surgical procedures are being done using minimally invasive techniques. As surgeons create new and better techniques, older types of procedures become less common, including many open procedures. The term “minimally invasive” is somewhat vague, it may mean that the incision is smaller than the usual open incision, or it may mean Laparoscopic surgery, depending upon the technique used during the procedure.

When the surgeons are equally skilled and a procedure is available as both an open procedure and a minimally invasive one, the minimally invasive technique almost always offers a lower risk of infection, shorter recovery times and equally successful outcomes.

In some cases, a surgery may start out as a minimally invasive procedure, then convert to the larger open incision procedure if the surgeon finds that continuing with the laparoscopic procedure can be unsafe for the patient or not feasible for the surgeon.

Pros and Cons of Open Surgery 

Open surgery is on the wane because of new technologies that make it so much easier to avoid large incisions and the risks that come with them. For example, with an open approach, the incision for a typical appendectomy is approximately 4 inches long. But according to the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, “In most laparoscopic appendectomies, surgeons operate through 3 small incisions (each 1/4 to 1/2 inch) while watching an enlarged image of the patient’s internal organs on a television monitor. As a result, recovery time is quicker and pain is often reduced.

But that doesn’t mean that open surgery is obsolete. In some cases, for example: Repairs simply cannot be made effectively using minimally invasive techniques, only open surgery provides the visual information required to completely remove tissues or accurately diagnose a condition.

Some types of surgeries require access to larger areas in order to insert materials such as in the case of an aortic aneurysm repair when a patient’s anatomy does not allow a stent to be placed.

Your surgeon will be able to explain which type of procedure is best in your unique circumstance and can help you make the decision most likely to lead to your best possible surgical outcome.

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    Dr. Jane Patterson is a board certified Family Medicine physician who provides primary care

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