Minimally invasive surgical techniques result in less pain, less scarring, less blood loss (and decreased need for blood transfusions), shorter hospital stays, and faster recoveries for many patients compared to open techniques. UW Medicine surgeons are among the country’s leading experts in minimally invasive surgery, including for common cancers, like colon cancer, as well as rare cancers, like intradural spinal cord tumors. Here are several examples of minimally invasive surgical techniques that UW Medicine surgeons use.
Laparoscopic surgery is performed through several small incisions in the abdomen. Through one incision, the surgeon inflates the abdomen with carbon dioxide gas so there’s room inside to see and operate. Then the surgeon uses the other small incisions to insert a laparoscope—a thin, lighted tube with a tiny video camera—and other surgical tools into the abdominal space. The entire surgery is done through these small incisions. When the same technique is used to perform surgery on the chest, it’s called thoracoscopic surgery.
Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery
Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive technique for patients who might otherwise need open-chest surgery (thoracotomy) to remove lung tissue. In a thoracotomy, the surgeon makes a long incision. Then, in order to reach the lungs, the surgeon must cut or spread the ribs. This method, while sometimes necessary, is more traumatic to the body. Recovery can be painful and take many weeks. VATS is done through a series of small incisions. People who undergo VATS tend to spend less time in the hospital, need less pain medication, have less scarring, and recover faster than those who have a thoracotomy. Read more about VATS.
Endoscopic surgery is similar to laparoscopic or thoracoscopic surgery, but the scope is inserted through one of the body’s natural openings, such as the mouth, nose, or anus, rather than through incisions. This technique can be used to remove certain tumors in the throat, larynx, esophagus, colon, bladder, brain, and other areas.