Laparoscopy is a form of minimally invasive or keyhole surgery. In this type of surgery, a surgeon can examine the inside of the abdomen or pelvis using small incisions to insert tools and instruments. A laparoscope, which has a camera and light at the tip is passed through the incision and used to relay images of the internal structures to a TV monitor.
This type of surgery is preferred over traditional open surgery, which requires a large incision in the abdomen to expose the internal organs. Laparoscopy is associated with less pain, bleeding and scarring, a faster recovery time and a shorter hospital stay.
The tools used in laparoscopic surgery have been studied and refined over the decades. One example is the TransEnterix which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 2009. It has a SPIDER surgical system that uses flexible instruments and requires only one incision to be made in the belly button area. This allows for rapid healing after the operation. The system was developed by Dr. Richard Stac from Duke University.
Other electronic tools have been developed in recent years to help surgeons optimize the surgical process. Features of these developments include visual magnification to improve the quality of images on the viewing screen; simulators that surgeons can use to practice procedures and hone their surgical skills; stabilization to eliminate vibration caused by machinery or shaking hands; and the reduced number of incisions required to operate successfully.
Only example of a sophisticated robotic platform is the daVinci Surgical System, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000. The robot acts as an aid in complex minimally invasive surgery and is controlled by a surgeon via a console. The system is commonly used for prostatectomy and is also used for cardiac valve repair and gynecology procedures. According to the manufacturer Intuitive Surgical, the instrument is named after Leonardo daVinci because he is said to have designed the first robot.
The use of robotics in surgery has been encouraged as a potential solution to helping underdeveloped countries, where one main hospital could act as the operating centre from which several robotic machines could be controlled in distant locations. The benefits to the military is also of interest in terms of providing mobile medical care without having to endanger doctors directly.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc