Since its inception in the late 1980s, laparoscopic surgery has made great strides. Now the minimally invasive procedure, originally used almost exclusively to remove gallbladders, is taking the place of a number of other open surgeries, among them several colorectal operations.
Most laparoscopic colorectal surgeries are performed to correct diverticulitis, inflammation of the intestinal tract and colon, and to remove polyps that cannot be safely removed during a colonoscopy because of their location or size. The procedure is also being used on patients with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
"As technology advances, costs decrease and more surgeons are trained in the skill, the popularity and applications of laparoscopic surgery will continue to grow," says Joseph Martz, MD, a certified colorectal and laparoscopic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital and one of the few physicians in the country trained in both conventional colorectal and laparoscopic colorectal surgery.
A laparoscopic surgeon uses a small video camera called a laparoscope, inserted into the abdomen thorough a tiny incision which projects a close-up view of the surgical area onto a video monitor. The camera guides the surgeon as he inserts special instruments through the incisions and performs the operation.
Advantages of laparoscopic surgery include less scarring, trauma and post-operative pain. Recovery time is also reduced. Patients usually require only a three-to-four day hospital stay, as compared to a week or more after open surgery. "Ninety-five percent of older patients who undergo laparoscopic surgery regain full independence, compared to seventy percent of patient who undergo open surgery," notes Dr. Martz.
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