Health Team

Doctors begin using single-incision surgeries

Posted May 31, 2010 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 31, 2010 6:11 p.m. EDT

— Gall bladder removal is commonly done through a few tiny incisions and several laparoscopic tools, but Dr. Jerry Stirman at Rex Hospital can do the procedure with one tiny incision in the belly button.

A small sponge is used to hold the incision open and serve as the entry point for a light, a camera and different bendable arms with surgical tools.

“Now the thing that's difficult about this surgery, that surgeons are having to learn to deal with, is what we call competition for space,” Stirman said.

The learning curve for single-incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS) has kept it limited to a few, mostly metropolitan hospitals.

But Covidien, the company that makes the surgical tools used in the procedure, created a mobile unit to give more surgeons hands on experience. They have sent the unit to hospitals like Rex and rural areas where the approach is new to surgeons.

Stirman said the unit allows doctors a chance to learn new techniques without having to take off time from work.

The main benefit of the procedure is cosmetic, with a barely noticeable scar in the navel.

“It's only one wound to look after instead of three or four,” said SILS patient Lisa Shutte. “It's amazing what they can do through one little incision.”

Stirman also said his patients experience less post operative pain.

“I could tell that there was bandaging there, but as far as pain, there was nothing,” Shutte said of the surgery, which she had in March.

In addition to gall bladder removal, the procedure is also offered for hysterectomies, appendectomies and gastric banding.