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Minimally Invasive Gastrointestinal Surgery

  • A type of gastrointestinal surgery that involves smaller incisions and shorter recovery time
  • Uses fiber optics and a high-def camera to project the surgical field onto a screen
  • Preferred method for bariatric weight-loss surgery, and to treat benign colorectal cancer
  • Involves gastrointestinal surgery

Overview

For most patients who need gastrointestinal surgery, a minimally invasive approach is preferable. (The alternative being a traditional open procedure, which may require a long incision.) These less-invasive surgeries, such as laparoscopy, involve very small incisions, cause less pain and allow for faster recovery. Patients go home from the hospital sooner, have fewer complications such as infections, hernias, and adhesions and have less scarring inside and out. 

“Minimally invasive surgery is the gold standard approach,” says Saber Ghiassi, MD, MPH, FACS, director of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at Bridgeport Hospital.

What conditions are commonly treated using minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgery?

This approach can be used in the treatment of most gastrointestinal conditions which require surgery. Minimally invasive surgery is also the preferred technique for bariatric weight-loss surgeries, and for surgery to treat benign colorectal disease and cancer.

How does minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgery work?

A minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgery typically uses a high-definition video camera to project the surgical field onto a screen in the operating room. “It allows for superior lighting and visualization of the organs we’re operating on and for more precise and safer surgery,” Dr. Ghiassi says. 

With the patient under general anesthesia, the surgeon makes several small incisions in the abdomen to place small ports or tubes. Through one port, the surgeon pumps carbon dioxide into the abdominal cavity, creating a workspace. They then insert the videoscope, which transmits images to a large high-definition screen. 

Once the surgeon completes the procedure, he or she removes the ports and allows the carbon dioxide to escape the cavity. Any gas that remains will be absorbed by the body and expelled through respiration.

What are the benefits of minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgery?

Minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgeries are as effective as traditional open surgeries, and can, in some cases, have even better outcomes. While open surgeries often require an in-hospital recovery period of five to 10 days, minimally invasive surgery lessens patients’ pain and accelerates their recovery. 

“Many of my patients don’t need any pain medication the day after surgery,” Dr. Ghiassi says. “They're often walking around and telling me that they're ready to go home because they feel great.” Minimally invasive surgery also drastically reduces the risks of wound complications, including infections, hernias and scar tissue formation.

How is Yale Medicine’s approach to minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgery unique?

Many appendectomies and gall bladder removals across the world are done laparoscopically, but many surgeons choose not to perform other procedures this way. At Yale Medicine, the gastrointestinal surgeons are specially trained and highly experienced in applying the minimally invasive approach to a broad spectrum of problems.

“We have a high rate of success performing minimally invasive surgeries successfully with excellent outcomes,” says Dr. Ghiassi. Yale Medicine receives many referrals from other physicians and medical centers of patients with challenging conditions, or who need revisions of a previous surgery. 

“Any type of revision through minimally invasive surgery is more challenging,” Dr. Ghiassi says. “But we possess the skills and experience to help those patients. We are very patient-centric, providing patients with the best care possible."