A new way to operate

Minimally invasive surgery, also known as endoscopic or “keyhole” surgery, is an alternative to traditional practice that has managed to change the norm for the number of surgeries done. As opposed to making one large opening with which to operate, doctors can now make small incisions, for a less invasive procedure.

"In a short period of time, many advancements have been made in the area of minimally invasive surgeries."

“Minimally invasive surgery really defines a change in approach that surgeons have undertaken in performing various more complex surgeries,” explains Dr. Mehran Anvari, Chair in Surgical Innovation at McMaster University and Scientific Director at the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation. “These surgeries have traditionally required large incisions on the body in order to gain access to internal organs or structures.”

This type of surgery relies heavily on technology. A long, thin tube with a small camera attached, called a scope, is inserted through the incision. The images from the camera are projected onto monitors in the operating room allowing the surgeons to get a clear view of the operating site.

Minimally invasive surgery techniques, which were regularly introduced in the late 1980s, are used in place of more conventional surgery methods for a variety of types of surgeries ranging from gallbladder removal to heart surgery.

Benefits for patients and healthcare workers

Patients who are able to opt for minimally invasive surgeries are in for a pleasant experience. Minimally invasive surgery procedures mean smaller incisions, less pain, reduced risk of infection, shorter recovery time and less time in the hospital.

In the case of gallbladder surgery where patients would traditionally spend between 3 to 5 days in the hospital, today most patients spend only a few hours in recovery at the hospital. From a doctor’s perspective, the use of the endoscope provides surgeons with a better look at what they are operating on and allows more people in the operating room to have a clearer view.

Challenges in the field

One challenge is the lack of surgeons able to perform minimally invasive surgeries. As advancements are made and more surgeries are performed using less invasive techniques, there is a growing need for more surgeons to be trained.

In some cases patients may require surgery that has a less invasive option however the lack of experiences doctors may steer them towards a more traditional surgical option.

The future of minimally invasive surgeries

In a short period of time, many advancements have been made in the area of minimally invasive surgeries. Moving forward, many doctors predict that there will be an increased focus on the use of robotics to aid with surgeries and allow doctors to have a more tactile surgical experience while still performing a minimally invasive surgery.

“With minimally invasive surgery, one of the things the surgeons lose is a sense of touch as well as some degree of dexterity as you’re using long instruments at a distance from the organs,” explains Dr. Anvari. “With the robotics, you can regain some of those lost capabilities and give the surgeon more capability right at the site of the surgery.”

As anyone who has had surgery can attest, whether the more traditional type or minimally invasive, a very frustrating part of surgery is the ensuing scar. Current innovations are moving towards scarless surgeries. Patients will be able to undergo a routine minimally invasive surgery without developing a scar


  • Minimally invasive surgery techniques can be used for bariatric surgery including gastric bypass, spleen, adrenal gland and gallbladder removal, anti-reflux operations for GERD, and some cancer surgeries among others.
  • The first minimally invasive procedure was a gallbladder removal performed by doctors in France in 1987 and this type of surgery continues to be one of the most commonly performed minimally invasive procedures.
  • Endoscope technology dates as far back as the early 1800s with the invention of the “Lichtleiter” (light conductor).