Conference showcases U surgery center

Minimally invasive techniques might revolutionize surgery.

Dylan Thomas

A roomful of surgeons watched a surgeon nudge and cut bloody tissue during a pancreas operation broadcast live Tuesday to a hotel conference room from the University’s new Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery.

Remarkably, the images came from a camera that, like the tools being used, had been inserted into the patient’s body through tiny holes, not a large incision.

New high-tech tools and minimally invasive techniques might revolutionize surgery, limiting patient pain and stress as well as operating room clutter. The University hopes to put its students and staff ahead of the curve with the new center.

“This is the future and people are starting to recognize that,” the center’s co-director Sayeed Ikramuddin said.

Four Fairview-University Medical Center operating rooms have been updated to “endosuites,” rooms specialized for minimally invasive surgery with high-tech surgical and communications equipment.

Minimally invasive surgery involves operating through tiny incisions, called ports, with tools that reach through the holes, and tiny video cameras that allow the surgeon to see inside the patient’s body.

Michael Maddaus, the center’s other co-director, said minimally invasive surgery limits damage to patient tissue, muscle and bones. These problems, typically associated with traditional surgery, can lead to more severe pain, lack of mobility and a slower recovery time by as much as four to six weeks, he said.

Surgical revolution

Maddaus said the movement toward minimally invasive surgery began approximately 15 years ago when gallbladder removal became possible through small incisions. Today, these types of surgeries are being done in all parts of the body, he said.

The new University center offers approximately 100 procedures, he said.

With the growth in the number of operations done this way, practicing surgeons are scrambling to learn the new techniques.

“If you’re like me, kind of mid-career, you better get going and get doing this,” or the operations will be taken over by surgeons using minimally invasive techniques, Maddaus said.

Because of the demand for this new knowledge, continuing medical education will be a substantial part of the center’s mission, Ikramuddin said.

Another part is training University medical students in the new techniques.

“There’s a whole new generation of surgeons that’s now well-trained” in minimally invasive surgery, Maddaus said.

He said the field’s next advancement will be using robots and monitors to simulate a three-dimensional environment. The robots will simulate the mobility and articulation of human hands. Combined with new three-dimensional displays, they will allow for more delicate suturing and dissection, Maddaus said.

Robots like those described are set to arrive at the University soon.

Maddaus expressed confidence that minimally invasive surgery would overtake traditional surgery in five to 10 years.

“It’s my anticipation that every operating room in that Fairview-University Medical Center is ultimately going to be an ‘endosuite,’ ” Maddaus said.

“The way technology is moving, all this stuff has the momentum of the development of the Internet,” Maddaus said.

Dylan Thomas welcomes comments at [email protected]