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How weight loss surgery is minimally invasive

Written By: Emma Squillace

When you think about bariatric surgery, do you picture a major operation? While we do not want to downplay the seriousness of all surgeries, we also want to reassure you that the operations we perform for weight loss at West Medical are almost always done in a way that is minimally invasive. You may have heard the term “minimally invasive surgery” but do you know what it means, and the advantages of it? To understand how minimally invasive techniques have changed surgery, and why this option is important, let’s first look at how weight loss surgeries used to be performed.

Open bariatric surgery

Weight loss surgery is more popular today than it was decades ago, but it has been available in some form for over 60 years. In fact, the gastric bypass which we still perform today, was first done in the 19060s. However, the gastric bypasses of the early days were done with a large incision to open up your whole abdominal area. This is why these major operations are called “open surgeries”. Today, many surgeries still need to be performed as open procedures, but some have converted to minimally invasive.

Disadvantages of open surgery

There are certain advantages to open surgeries. Most importantly, there are times when a surgeon needs access to large areas of the inside of your body, needs direct visibility, and has to use large surgical tools. For these reasons, a surgery may be best performed open. However, open surgeries can have disadvantages as well. First of all, the incision for open surgery is generally quite large. Even with a surgeon who does an excellent job of stitching up the incision, there will always be a scar with an open procedure. Additionally, open procedures generally lead to longer recovery times. While your body is healing from the surgery, it also has a larger wound to heal. Open procedures also usually have more bleeding, swelling, and bruising. In the majority of cases, patients who have open procedures find it takes them longer to return to work and performing activities around the house.

Laparoscopic weight loss surgery

After about 30 years of performing open gastric bypass surgeries, some innovative surgeons in the 1990s began to perform this procedure as a “laparoscopic surgery”. The one large incision of open surgeries was now replaced with multiple incisions – but they were very small. This meant, of course, that large surgical tools could not be used. Instead, surgeons began using very thin tools that could fit through an incision less than a centimeter long. How could the surgeons see what they were doing? Through one small incision, they placed a camera with a light. This camera shows the inside of the body on the surgeon’s monitor, and they can do very detailed, surgical work without actually opening up the body. Today we’ve seen even more improvements in the tools and techniques used for laparoscopic – or minimally invasive – surgeries.

Benefits of laparoscopic weight loss surgery

The most obvious benefit of these minimally invasive techniques is that the scars are substantially smaller and less noticeable. Beyond the scarring, patients who have minimally invasive surgery are generally able to walk around sooner, return to their daily activities, and go back to work. On average they report less pain and a shorter recovery. Modern day techniques allow us to make your day of surgery much quicker and more comfortable than decades ago.

Minimally invasive techniques can be used for all the weight loss surgeries we offer at West Medical, including the gastric sleeve operation. While there are rare cases that we need to perform an operation as an “open” procedure, we usually do not need to. In most cases, minimally invasive surgery can allow you to get back to your life, and focus on your weight loss journey, with a shorter and more comfortable recovery. If you’d like to learn more about minimally invasive bariatric surgery, please give us a call at (855) 690-0565.

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