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Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital

Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital
Affiliated with Levine Children's Hospital
920 Church Street N
Concord, NC 28025
(800) 575-1275


Minimally Invasive Surgery

What Is Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery uses tiny cuts in the skin — or no cuts at all — rather than the larger cuts often needed in traditional surgery (also called open surgery).

There are many kinds of minimally invasive surgery. Each involves the surgeon using a scope, such as an or . Scopes are thin tubes that have a light and tiny video camera on the end. They let the surgeon see inside the body and use very small surgical tools in the area.

What Are the Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery can help patients have:

  • shorter hospital stays
  • quicker recovery times
  • less pain and discomfort
  • smaller scars

What Happens During Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Someone having minimally invasive surgery will get anesthesia to "sleep" through the procedure. Then, the surgeon inserts the scope. Surgeons can put it into the body through:

  • the body's natural openings (like the nostrils or mouth)
    or
  • tiny cuts in the body

Images from the scope are shown on monitors in the operating room so surgeons can get a clear (and magnified) view of the surgical area.

In some minimally invasive procedures, special surgical tools or instruments are inserted through other small incisions. The surgeon uses these to explore, remove, or repair a problem inside the body.

There are many different types of scopes. Some have tiny surgery tools on the end. Some are flexible, while others are stiff. The kind used depends on the surgery, and might have a different name. For example:

  • — for procedures done inside the colon (such as a colonoscopy)
  • — for surgeries inside the belly (laparoscopic surgery)
  • — for procedures in the chest (thoracoscopic surgery)

Sometimes during minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon might have to switch to an open surgery after looking inside the body. This can happen if the problem is different from what the surgeon expected.

What Are the Types of Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery usually falls into these categories:

  • Endoscopy: The surgeon uses the endoscope itself to do the procedure. The endoscope goes in through the body's natural openings, without the surgeon making any cuts.
  • Laparoscopy: Using small cuts (sometimes called "keyhole" cuts or incisions), the surgeon guides the scope and special surgery tools into the body.
  • Robot-assisted surgery (robotic surgery): The surgeon makes several small cuts to guide the scope and robotic tools into the body. From there, the surgeon controls the surgery while sitting at a nearby computer console.

Are There Any Side Effects From Minimally Invasive Surgery?

In laparoscopy, doctors the inside of the belly. This means they add carbon dioxide gas to create space in the abdomen, giving them a better view of the surgical area. They release the gas at the end of the procedure. Sometimes, small pockets of gas remain and can irritate the , causing shoulder pain. This pain usually doesn't last more than a day.

What Else Should I Know?

Not all procedures can (or should) be done through minimally invasive methods. Your doctor will tell you what type of surgery is best for your child. Be sure to ask about the possible risks of any procedure, as well as its benefits.

Reviewed by: Loren Berman, MD
Date reviewed: January 2023