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Building on basics

Making Surgery Safer

"My doctor told me he had some bad news, that it was cancer, but it looked new," recalls Sackett. "I was fortunate that they caught it while it was fresh, before it had a chance to go jumping around my body."

He also was fortunate because, as a patient at UC Davis Medical Center, he was a candidate for a new type of minimally invasive surgery to remove his diseased esophagus.

Minimally invasive surgery is surgery of the chest, abdomen, spine and pelvis using viewing scopes and flexible, wand-like instruments. These instruments allow surgeons to do major operations using a small number of tiny incisions. The viewing scope consists of a tube with a light source attached that is connected to a tiny video camera. The camera - smaller than a dime - projects images of the body onto video monitors in the operating room.

The viewing scope lets doctors use instruments with tiny cutting and grasping edges to complete surgery. It's known as keyhole surgery or Nintendo surgery, a reference to the limited visibility and fine hand-eye coordination needed.

When these instruments are used in the abdomen, the proce- dure is called a laparoscope; when it's used to operate on a joint, it is called arthoscopy.


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