Minimally invasive surgery uses new technology and techniques to access your organs through small portals, rather than large incisions. Surgeons today can complete many common operations using minimally invasive methods.
Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is an approach to surgery that minimizes cutting through your skin and tissues. Surgeons use MIS techniques and technology to cause as little trauma as possible during your procedure. Smaller cuts reduce your potential for pain, complications and recovery time. Healthcare providers perform many common procedures today using minimally invasive surgery techniques.
Most minimally invasive surgery procedures involve the use of small, “keyhole” incisions to serve as ports for special instruments during your surgery. Depending on the location, these incisions are usually a half-inch long or less. One port provides access for an endoscope, a narrow tube with a lighted camera at the end that projects images to a screen. Surgeons operate through the other ports with long, narrow instruments.
There are different types of endoscopes for different body parts, and sometimes they go by specific names. For example, a laparoscope goes into your abdominal cavity, a thoracoscope goes into your chest cavity and an arthroscope goes into your joints. Surgery using these scopes may be called laparoscopic surgery, thoracoscopic surgery or arthroscopic surgery. These are a few types of minimally invasive surgery.
An advanced form of minimally invasive surgery uses robotic arms to operate through the small incisions. This is called robotic surgery. A specially trained surgeon operates the robot arms from a console within the operating room. Robotics allow for greater precision and control in smaller areas. Most robotic surgery procedures use several ports, but sometimes single-port surgery is possible.
Endovascular surgery involves threading a tiny catheter through a blood vessel and operating through it. It takes only one tiny incision to access the blood vessel. Often, endovascular surgeons can puncture the skin with a needle rather than cutting it. This minimizes bleeding. Surgeons thread the catheter over a guidewire, then remove the wire and pass surgical instruments through the catheter to operate.
Finally, some endoscopes can go through an existing opening in your body, like your nose or mouth. Surgeons can operate through these endoscopes using long, narrow tools, without cutting through your skin at all. This is called “natural orifice” endoscopic surgery. “Endoluminal” procedures happen within the walls of your organ, while “transluminal” procedures cut through one of the walls of your organ.
Common examples of minimally invasive surgery procedures include:
In many aspects, minimally invasive surgery is safer than traditional open surgery. In fact, some people who aren’t candidates for traditional open surgery may be candidates for minimally invasive procedures. However, minimally invasive techniques can take longer than open surgery, and they require some preparation in advance. This may not work in an emergency, or when your condition isn’t yet clear.
People with certain heart and lung conditions may not be ideal candidates for laparoscopic surgery in particular. This is because laparoscopic surgery involves pumping gases into your abdominal cavity to separate your abdominal wall from your organs. In some people, these gases may increase the risk of heart and lung complications during surgery. Your surgeon will assess your risk on an individual basis.
Different types of surgical procedures involve different steps. However, there are some general differences between traditional open surgery and minimally invasive surgery procedures.
Minimally invasive surgery requires specialized tools and equipment, which require specialized training to use. In addition to the surgeon, it takes a well-trained surgical team to help manage it all. The surgical team helps monitor the machines and make adjustments to the equipment during surgery. They stay by the operating table to help place instruments when the surgeon operates from the robotic console.
Some of the equipment they use includes:
Potential benefits include:
Potential disadvantages include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Advances in surgical technology and techniques are allowing surgeons to complete more operations using minimally invasive methods. By accessing your organs through smaller portals, surgeons can minimize your surgical trauma, thereby reducing your pain, complications and recovery time. If you need an operation, ask your healthcare provider if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/29/2023.
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