One-incision surgery

October 8, 2009 3:34:21 PM PDT
It's the latest trend in surgery -- doing more with fewer incisions. Now doctors have gone one step further, cutting the number of cuts down to one. One woman had major surgery with barely a mark left behind. It's standing room only in O.R. 2 at Tampa General Hospital. From Maine to Alaska surgeons line up to learn how to perform the most minimally invasive surgery available.

"It's one incision as opposed to three or four or five," said Dr. Alex Rosemurgy, professor of surgery at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

It's called laparoendoscopic single site surgery, or LESS. Doctors use it to remove gall bladders, appendixes, and liver cysts as well as repair hernias and acid reflux disease. A specially-designed port that's inserted through a one-centimeter cut at the belly button allows miniature tools to enter the body.

"We could argue that there's less pain, and we can certainly say that with one incision there's less risk of problems with hernia and infections," Dr. Rosemurgy said.

Sunny Lichtenberg needed surgery for a swallowing disorder.

"I had really gotten to the point where I couldn't eat at all," Lichtenberg said.

An operation that used to require up to five incisions across the stomach now only needs one at the belly button. Surgeons accessed Lichtenberg's esophagus through the stomach.

"Actually, I woke up and said how many holes do I have, and they said one," Lichtenberg said. "I think it made my recovery time so much less."

Today, the piercing above her belly button is actually bigger than the scar from the operation.

"One incision is absolutely wonderful," Lichtenberg said. "I was able to go back to work in a week."

Surgery that does more with less and allows patients to get back to their lives sooner.

The doctors who pioneered the LESS surgery say virtually any kind of minimally invasive procedure can be done with the single-incision method, including a combined hysterectomy and gall bladder removal and removal of cancerous tumors from organs like the pancreas.

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