From the GIC Winter 2010 Newsletter pdf format of fybwinter2010.pdf

By Robert Sorrenti, M.D., UniCare State Indemnity Plan

In 1987, a surgeon performed the first laparoscopic gall bladder removal. He removed the patient's gall bladder by putting a tube (laparoscope) into the abdomen through a small incision, instead of making a big incision to insert retractors, hands, and scalpels on conventional surgery. This opened the door to minimally invasive surgery (MIS), creating an explosion in the use of the laparoscope to help replace traditional, more invasive, surgical methods. In fact, laparoscopic surgery is now the preferred method for gall bladder removal.

MIS uses technological advances in surgical instruments and techniques to help avoid disrupting or injuring healthy body parts. In addition to the laparoscope, other kinds of "scopes" have been developed, like arthroscopes and endoscopes. These instruments allow doctors to look inside body cavities and perform procedures through the scopes without the need for the large incisions of conventional surgery. Consequently, doctors today can use MIS for surgeries of the back, heart, knees, abdomen and more. Operating on joints, taking out prostates and appendixes, and repairing hernias are some of the frequent applications of MIS.

Compared to traditional surgical methods, patients undergoing MIS generally have less pain, quicker recovery times, and shorter stays in the hospital. Clearly, patients eager to get back to normal activities after surgery would find these differences beneficial.

MIS is not minor surgery but a different way to perform major surgery. All types of surgery have some risk of complications, even MIS. So patients should discuss with their doctors whether MIS is the best way to proceed and whether it has better outcomes than the other approaches. MIS has created groundbreaking advances in surgical technique, leading to significant improvement in patient care. Doctors now have a greater ability to deal with both routine and complicated surgical conditions. As with any type of surgery or treatment, patients should evaluate the options, understand the risks and make informed decisions with their doctors.

Robert W. Sorrenti, MD, MHA, is the Regional Vice President Chief Medical Officer for UniCare, a subsidiary of WellPoint, Inc., one of the largest health benefits companies in the U.S. His responsibilities include oversight for UniCare's medical management program and its various components. Dr. Sorrenti has an MD from Harvard Medical School and an MHA from Clark University .

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .