Scarless surgery for kids

May 12, 2010 3:38:17 PM PDT
Traditional abdominal surgery used to mean acute pain, a lengthy recovery and a nasty visible scar. Over the past few years, surgeons have begun using a new technique on adults that makes minimally invasive surgery nearly scarless.

Pediatric experts are now using the same approach to make surgery easier on kids.

Ninth grader Melanie Perez never missed a day of school until last April.

A sudden, searing pain in her stomach sent Melanie and her family racing to the emergency room for answers.

"He told me there was a tumor on my ovary, something that's not supposed to be there, and he was gonna get it out," Perez said.

The tumor was the size of a grapefruit, filled with fluid. Instead of three incisions to remove it, pediatric surgeon Dr. Matthew Moront at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia made one in Melanie's belly button.

He inserted two microscopic tools and a camera through the opening. He then drained and flattened the tumor and pulled it out through the tiny cut in the belly button.

"We felt this was a significant cosmetic improvement as well as an improvement in her recovery, and still a safe and careful operation," Moront said.

Doctors say the single-port surgery can be used in kids who need their appendix removed, lung biopsies or other abdominal surgeries.

"I remember waking up after taking a nap, and I asked her, does this mean I'm gonna have a really cool scar?" Perez said.

No visible scar and very little missed school for this honor student, who was at home recovering less than two days after her operation.

Moront says the single-port technique can be performed with traditional laparoscopic instruments. Melanie had a type of tumor called a teratoma. While it turned out to be benign, Moront says all teratomas are treated as though they are cancerous.