How Laparoscopic Surgery Works - Surgery through tiny little holes

by | Apr 1, 2010 11:00 AM ET

Yesterday we looked at the LAP-BAND weight loss device. The post contained this video, which very nicely describes the installation procedure using Laparoscopic Surgery:

Let's say you show this video to a curious, HowStuffWorks-type person who doesn't know anything about Laparoscopic Surgery. There are several questions that immediately pop up. Like:

1) Q: How is it possible to see inside the body so clearly? A: The doctor uses a tool called a laparoscope, which is basically a camera and a light on a stick. The doctor makes a small incision to insert the stick, as described in this video:

2) Q: How can there be so much room - It looks like the tools are working inside a cavern? A: They inflate the abdomen with CO2 gas to create a lot more room. To keep the CO2 from leaking out, the incisions are sealed with devices called trocars. You can see trocars being inserted in this video:

3) Q: How does the doctor control the tools, like the little grabbers? And how can he/she use them so fluidly? A: The fluidity comes through lots of practice. The doctor uses his hands and feet to control the tools. You can see how a doctor trains for the surgery, and what the hand-end of the tools look like, in this simulator video:

4) Q: Why is there no blood? A: They are using blades that immediately cauterize (heat up) and seal the blood vessels that would normally be exposed during cutting. For example, in this video (jump to 1:30 they talk about using an "LCS". This is the Ultracision LCS-C5 harmonic scalpel I believe):

A harmonic scalpel uses ultrasound to create vibration and heat that cauterizes the cut.

5) Q: Why would the doctor want to do it this way, rather than opening the patient up so the doctor can see with his/her own eyes and touch with his/her own fingers? A: The big advantage of Laparoscopic Surgery is the small incision. Small incisions take a lot less time to heal and cause less pain. There is also less bleeding and less chance for infection.

See also: Are surgeons using video games for training?

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