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Weight-Loss Surgery: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Laparoscopic Surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery is a new surgical specialty which involves operating through small incisions, using a long slender camera and lens system to view the internal organs. These cameras and instruments are used in almost every surgical specialty. Laparoscopic surgery is also known by many other names, including keyhole surgery, minimally invasive surgery, minimal access surgery, endoscopic surgery, needlescopic surgery and arthroscopic surgery (orthopedics).

How Is Laparoscopic Surgery Performed?

Typically, about four incisions less than 1/2 inch in length are made. Carbon dioxide gas is used to create a working space, usually within the abdomen, but also in other areas of the body. The internal organs are seen by inserting a laparoscope through one of the small incisions. A tiny camera is attached to the laparoscope, which sends light into the body and projects the image onto a monitor (TV screen). Long slender instruments are placed in the other small incisions and are used to perform the operation.

What Are the Benefits of Laparoscopic Surgery?

The advantages of laparoscopic surgery come from minimizing the trauma of access to internal organs. By avoiding a long incision through the muscles, many post-operative problems are eliminated, and pain is markedly reduced. This enables the patient to breath and cough better. Use of strong pain medications is drastically reduced so the drowsiness, fatigue and unsteadiness they cause are minimized. Most patients have a shorter hospital stay and recover within days instead of weeks.

What Are the Risks of Laparoscopic Surgery?

Risks of any operation include infection, bleeding, hernia and pulmonary embolus (blood clot to the lung). These complications tend to be less frequent in laparoscopic surgery than in open surgery. Each procedure has unique complications which occur whether it is done in open surgery or laparoscopically. In addition, difficulties may be encountered during surgery that cannot be safely managed laparoscopically and may require conversion to a conventional procedure for the patient's safety. Please be aware that, while most patients come to us for laparoscopic surgery, if we feel that your best interests will not be served by laparoscopic surgery we will tell you and suggest an appropriate alternative.

Who Does Laparoscopic Surgery?

Most general surgeons do some laparoscopic surgery, most commonly laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal). Some general surgeons do more complex procedures such as hiatal hernia repair and splenectomy. A few surgeons, including us, have obtained specialty training in new and very complex laparoscopic procedures and are dedicated to practicing only laparoscopic surgery. In addition, we have developed and initiated several new laparoscopic procedures within our practice, including a totally laparoscopic duodenal switch for morbid obesity; laparoscopic vertical gastrectomy for high risk morbidly obese patients; and laparoscopic gastric pacemaker for diabetic gastroparesis.

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Read more about morbid obesity surgery, bariatric surgery, or gastric bypass surgery, or LapBand®.

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