Surgery – Sans Knife

Almost no cutting required, and patients recover very fast

Imagine a surgery that requires almost no cutting, leaves patients virtually pain free and allows them to be up in about a day.

Surgeons are increasingly offering their patients this less invasive option: but patients admit when they first hear about it, it's a little strange.

Teacher Heather Lamb went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to have her gallbladder removed, and Dr. Eric Hungness and his team suggested that she do natural orifice surgery. 

In other words, have the gallbladder removed through her vagina.

"When he said that., I said Uhhhh are you sure?" Heather recalled. But then she agreed, because he explained it that it would be far less invasive.

So far, five of these trans-vaginal operations have been performed at Northwestern. There's one incision through the belly button and another deep inside the body. And with far fewer nerves being cut, there's a lot less pain.

The new technology allows the surgeon to snake tiny tools and cameras into the body, so they can see what they're doing. Heather Lamb said within a week of her gallbladder operation, she was running again.

Marci Burstyn also chose natural orifice surgery.

Her first stomach bypass operation ended with an infection. And although the reduction worked for a while, her stomach pouch eventually stretched and she gained back the weight.

So when Evanston Hospital's Dr. Michael Ujiki said he could do fix her stomach through her throat, she agreed. She went home after the operation, and was up making her own breakfast the next morning.

"I had no pain at all," she marveled. Surgeons did the entire operation from the inside, again using a flexible tube with its own light camera and instruments, Dr. Ujiki explained.

In the Rose Procedure,  the tiny instrument gathered tissue from the stomach wall that had stretched over time and made it smaller by folding the tissue and stitching it in place.

"Over 200 patients have been done so far in the country with no major complications.  The most common would be a sore throat" Dr. Ujiki said.

For Marci Burstyn, it's a second chance at losing weight that didn't cost her days of recovery. For Heather Lamb, the pain of gallstones was gone. She could run again within a week, and she ran a half marathon within a month.

Both women said that while the idea of having surgeons use their bodies' natural openings seemed strange at first, the result was a remarkably easy recovery.

Of course, doctors warn these are such new surgeries that we don't yet know about long term effects, but both surgeons said they expect more procedures to be done this way.

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