What Is

What Is "Minimally Invasive" Surgery?

My daughter needs to undergo a surgical procedure, and the doctor has recommended "minimally invasive" surgery. What type of surgery is this? Will it be as safe — and effective — as standard surgery?
- Julianne

Minimally invasive surgery is becoming more and more common in hospitals. These procedures are performed through tiny incisions instead of one large opening. Because the incisions are small, patients tend to have quicker recovery times and less discomfort than with conventional surgery all with the same benefits.

During a minimally invasive procedure, surgeons make several small incisions in the skin — just a few millimeters, in some cases. A long, thin tube with a miniature camera attached at the end (called an endoscope) is passed through one of the incisions. Images from the endoscope are projected onto monitors in the operating room so surgeons can get a clear (and magnified) view of the surgical area. Special instruments are passed through the other openings. These instruments allow the surgeon to perform the surgery by exploring, removing, or repairing whatever's wrong inside the body.

In some cases, a patient might be scheduled for a minimally invasive procedure, but after getting a view inside the body the surgeon might have to "convert" the procedure to an open (conventional) surgery. This may be because the problem or the anatomy is different from what the surgeon expected.

Minimally invasive surgery can take longer than conventional surgery, but the pros usually outweigh the cons. Because the incisions are small, the child usually feels less pain, has less scarring, and may recover more quickly than with conventional surgery.

Not all procedures can (or should) be done through minimally invasive methods, however. The removal of cancer tumors, for example, is often best performed through open surgery. Your doctor will tell you what type of procedure is best for your child. Be sure to ask about the possible risks associated with any procedure, as well as the potential benefits.

Reviewed by: Charles D. Vinocur, MD
Date reviewed: May 2012





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





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Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Medical Association (AMA) The AMA has made a commitment to medicine by making doctors more accessible to their patients. Contact the AMA at: American Medical Association
515 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 464-5000
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.
OrganizationAmerican College of Surgeons The website of the American College of Surgeons provides consumer information about common surgeries such as appendectomy.
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