Keyhole surgery is a minimally invasive procedure. In other words, it does not require long cuts and incisions. Instead, surgeons make a small incision. They then insert a slender tube with a camera and a flashlight.
This equipment called endoscope shows and magnifies the internal organs of the patient on a television screen. This way, surgeons can access and see the surgical site without making extensive incisions.
Keyhole surgery has different names depending on the body parts involved:
- Laparoscopy means inserting the tube into the abdomen and pelvis.
- Thoracoscopic surgery is the keyhole procedure into the chest. This surgery involves removing cancerous lung tissue, damaged lymph nodes, and tumours. It can also help treat water in the lungs and chest trauma.
- Arthroscopy involves the joints, knees, ankles, and other bones. This procedure may treat cartilage damage, arthritis, and joint inflammation.
This modern surgical technique revolutionized the industry. As an alternative to traditional surgery, keyhole surgery improves the surgeons’ practice and the patients’ recovery. These are the advantages of keyhole surgery:
- It has numerous applications. Keyhole surgery can help diagnose and treat diseases that require operations.
- It is less painful since surgeons only make a small incision. The tube affects less inside body parts as well, so less blood is lost as well.
- Keyhole surgery patients recover quicker because the wound is much tinier. The patients do not have to stay at the hospital much longer. So they have less risk of pneumonia, muscle weakness, and the effects of bed rest.
- Scars, bleeding, tissue damage, and blood clots are minimal. Hence, keyhole surgeries have better cosmetic results.
- There is less risk of complications during recovery. Because the wound is small, the patient is less likely to develop bacterial infections and sores.
Keyhole surgeries are applicable for different diagnoses and treatments. Surgeons usually apply this technique when dealing with the urinary tract, the digestive system, and women’s reproductive parts.
At times, ultrasound and CT scans cannot provide accurate imaging. Keyhole surgery is the next best alternative. This procedure can help surgeons diagnose appendicitis, gallstones, cysts, and infections in the female reproductive system.
Keyhole surgery is also significant in diagnosing cancer. During biopsies, surgical oncologists use a tube to remove suspicious tissue. This sample will be analyzed and tested for cancer.
Before the surgery, patients should not eat or drink within six to twelve hours. The length of fasting depends on the scheduled procedure.
Patients should also refrain from taking anticoagulants and aspirin because these medications can stop blood clots and cause profuse bleeding. They should also avoid smoking since this can slow down healing.
Before the surgery, the patient will receive general anesthesia. Then, the surgeon makes incisions small enough for the endoscope to fit. This cut is around a centimetre in diameter.
If the case involves the abdomen, they will pump carbon dioxide inside. This gas will give the tube more room. Afterwards, the surgeons will insert the rod. They can see the patient’s organs from a screen.
If the surgeon uses this rod for the surgical treatment itself, the surgeons may make more cuts. Similar small instruments may go through these tiny cuts, while the endoscope gives surgeons vision.
When the surgery is over, they will release the gas, close the wound, and cover it with dressing. Diagnostic keyhole surgery usually takes 30–50 minutes to complete.
The patient might need to stay at the hospital for a day under observation. The nurses will check his vital signs and ability to eat and drink.
When everything is okay already, they will teach the patient how to clean the wound. They will also schedule the check-up appointment.
The patient may feel discomfort from the incision, but he can use prescribed painkillers to lessen the pain.
If he went through a laparoscopy, the patient would experience the mild side effects of the carbon dioxide gas pumped into his abdomen. These include cramps, bloating, and shoulder aches. This consequence may end after a day.
Recovery times depend on the type of keyhole surgery, the treatment’s complexity, the patient’s health, and the complications that might arise:
- If the keyhole surgery had been diagnostic, the patient would continue his typical activities five days after the procedure.
- In minor operations like appendectomy, the patient may fully recover within three weeks.
- Recovery from extensive surgeries like organ removal or cancer treatment may take up to three months.
Resting and naps are valuable as the body recovers from the surgery. Patients should contact the surgeons and physicians. They will give the go-signal if past activities may fully resume.
Since 1987, keyhole surgeries have been time-tested and backed up by research. But every procedure involves risks. Some of its potential complications are minor. However, it can have serious side effects. Examples include:
- Infections and bleeding
- Feeling nausea and dizziness
- Organ damage
- Tears in blood vessels and arteries
- Carbon dioxide ending up forming bubbles within the blood
- Allergies to the anesthesia
- Deep vein thrombosis or clots in the veins that may block proper blood flow
Talk to a surgeon as you assess the risks of an approaching keyhole procedure.
Like every surgery, keyhole procedures pose risks as well. Patients must immediately contact their doctor or surgeon if one of the following complications arise:
- Body temperature higher than 38°C;
- Excessive chills, vomiting, and abdominal pain;
- Bleeding and infection in the wound;
- Leg inflammation and pain; and
- Pain while urinating.
Keyhole surgery shows promise in robotics-assisted procedures. During these operations, the surgeon controls the equipment through a console. The robotic assistant comes with precise arms, cameras, 3D optics, and powerful techniques.
These robots assist surgeons have better vision and perform tinier cuts. Furthermore, robotics-assisted keyhole surgeries have lesser complications and risks.
Unfortunately, these robots are expensive. They also require specialized training. Nonetheless, this technology gradually gains traction in high-end hospitals.