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Minimally Invasive Surgery is New Trend

Having surgery used to mean the permanent memento of an ugly scar. But the trend in modern surgery is something called "M.I.P.", which stands for Minimally Invasive Procedure. There are distinct advantages to M.I.P.

When tests showed Brenda Voulgarides had a lump on her thyroid, she went to her doctor, who decided it needed to be removed. Doctor Glenn Peters, a head and neck surgeon at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recommended a minimally invasive surgery rather than a traditional surgical procedure.

"The minimally invasive [surgery] involves an incision that is about an inch long in the lower neck and it’s usually oriented within natural skin lines of the neck, so that it blends in with the creases that go across the neck," says Dr. Peters.

Minimally invasive procedures were first done a half-century ago for head and neck surgery. The technique has been expanded for almost everything from an appendectomy to gall bladder surgery, ligament repair, even some areas of the heart.

Surgeons insert thin tubes, called trocars, into small incisions. Then carbon dioxide gas is pumped to inflate the abdomen and create a working space between the organs and skin. Surgeons use a tiny camera to see what needs to be done. Minimally invasive procedures have some advantages over conventional surgery -- less recovery time and less pain for the patient, plus a shorter hospitalization and less small scarring.

Tests showed the nodule on Brenda Voulgarides's thyroid was not cancerous. She went home the same day as the surgery. The scar is barely visible a few weeks after surgery.

"I have peace of mind now that that nodule's gone," said Voulgarides.

Minimally invasive procedures are not for everyone. Patients who are obese are not good candidates. Neither are those with previous abdominal surgery, or people who suffer abnormal bleeding in the operating room.

The majority of minimally invasive procedures are done in American medical centers. But it has become increasingly popular elsewhere in the world.