Exploring the benefits of minimally invasive surgery for colorectal disorders

April 17, 2024


Less pain after surgery. Decreased scarring. Shorter recovery time.

These are just three benefits of the minimally invasive approach to surgery: an option we implement at Alabama Colon and Rectal Institute whenever it is the best choice for our patients. 

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) typically refers to both laparoscopic and robotic surgery. It involves specialized techniques using smaller incisions and instruments for improved visualization during the operation or procedure. Minimally invasive techniques can be used for many surgical needs including those related to the gallbladder and intestine, as well as the colon and rectum. 

Laparoscopic surgery vs. robotic surgery

These modern surgical techniques make use of the laparoscope, a long fiber optic cable system that allows for easy internal viewing of the human body. Our surgeons provide both traditional laparoscopic as well as robotic surgical options for our patients. While both operations are considered minimally invasive, there are some differences. 

In traditional laparoscopic surgery, small incisions are made by the surgeon and the camera is held by a medical professional. The instruments are directly controlled by the physician. 

In robotic surgery, the camera and instruments are moved by a robot that is controlled by the surgeon sitting at a console in the room. Control over the instruments and visualization can be superior with robotic surgery. 

More about robotic surgery as a minimally invasive approach

Robotic surgery is the best technology from a visualization standpoint, particularly when we are performing difficult work. More involved surgeries require the absolute best range of motion possible. The robotic instruments are known as “wristed,” meaning that they rotate in a 360-degree pattern. Our hand and wrist can only rotate in a 210-degree motion, so the robotic arm can twist ergonomically in a way a human wrist cannot. 

We use robotics for any abdominal surgery that requires a resection. This would include many cancer surgeries, plus abdominal surgery for diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis. 

One thing we would like to clear up is that while some people think a robot will perform their surgery, this is not the case at all. The robot is always in the hands of the surgeon. It does not operate independently or do any maneuvers that the surgeon is not performing. We are always in control of what’s happening, but we are utilizing the benefits of the robot to help us with that visualization and range of motion that is so important.

What to expect with minimally invasive surgery

It’s important to understand that surgery is different for every patient, so each person’s experience may vary. Keeping that in mind, here are some things the average patient should expect with minimally invasive surgery at Alabama Colon and Rectal Institute:

  • Minimally invasive surgery most often requires general anesthesia. This means patients should plan not to drive after surgery. 
  • Tissue may be removed for biopsy and to document potential health issues. 
  • Most patients undergoing minimally invasive colon surgery will require one to three nights in the hospital. (With more traditional surgery, this time would likely be closer to a week.)
  • Patients receive instructions on how best to prepare for the surgery, including a bowel prep kit that is often necessary before the operation. 
  • There is often much less pain after MIS, which means a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery. This also potentially results in fewer long-term risks than traditional open surgery.
  • By having much small incisions, chances for hernias and obstructions related to scar tissue or adhesions are drastically reduced. 

These approaches to minimally invasive surgery are great examples of how improved and new technology is a huge benefit for surgery. Taking a laparoscopic or robotic approach is a very effective way to handle colorectal surgeries, and we are so thankful to be able to provide these services to our patients. 

Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute is centered around treating diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus.

Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute (also known as the “Butt Hutt” around town!) has been in practice since 1990 as a free-standing, private practice located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.  We are known for our efficiency and patient care, in a more relaxed office-based setting.  Our doctors are known regionally for their expertise and are active in teaching surgical residents and other physicians.  We are also a major sponsor of The Rumpshaker 5K, a race that promotes awareness about colorectal cancer.  Check out our website for more information, or give us a call to make an appointment at (205) 458-5000, or email us at [email protected].  

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