Frequently Asked Questions

What is minimally invasive surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery is performed through small ports placed in the body, that allow surgeons to operate using high-resolution video imaging and specialized micro instrumentation. Three small incisions are usually made. One allows surgeons to insert within the body an endoscope, a device consisting of a tube and optical system for observing the inside of a hollow organ or cavity. Surgeons use the other two incisions to insert and manipulate surgical instruments. Another small incision sometimes is needed during organ or tissue resections. 

Endoscopes used to visualize the peritoneal cavity are called laparoscopes; those used to view the thoracic cavity are called thoracoscopes.

Why is this type of surgery preferred over open surgeries?

The small incisions have a number of advantages for patients, including quicker recovery times, less pain and less scarring. Hospital stays are shorter, and patients generally resume normal activities much sooner than those undergoing open surgeries. As an example, a study of laparoscopic appendectomy conducted at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital between 1994 -1998 showed:

  Open (243) Laparoscopic (85)
Morphine equivalents 31.1 ± 62.7 19.2 ± 27.5
Clear liquid diet (days) 1.6 ± 2.53 .08 ± 1.5
Regular diet (days) 2.3 ± 2.1 1.6 ± 1.7
Length of stay (days) 3.7 ± 4.2 2.3 ± 2.5

How long has minimally invasive surgery been performed?

The first endoscopic surgery was performed on an adult in 1989. Pediatric surgeons began using the technique in 1995. 

How experienced are St. Louis Children’s Hospital surgeons in minimally invasive surgery? 

The hospital’s pediatric surgeons began performing minimally invasive surgery in 1997 and have performed hundreds of these surgeries in recent years. These procedures are performed in a minimally invasive surgical suite with state-of-the art instrumentation and equipment. 

Which pediatric patients are candidates for minimally invasive surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery may be performed on infants weighing as little as 3 pounds on up through teenagers. Conditions such as large abdominal tumors and traumatic solid organ injuries are not treated endoscopically. 

Is minimally invasive surgery covered by insurance?

Minimally invasive surgical procedures are generally covered by most insurance plans but patients should check with their provider.