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Minimal Access Terms

Minimal Access Surgery: Terms and Definitions

Photo of Open Incision and Laparoscopic Incision
Compared to an open incision like the one in the photo at bottom, laparoscopic incisions for gall bladder removal, appendectomy, and other abdominal pr ocedures (photo at top) are far smaller, promoting much faster recovery.

Minimal access surgery refers to surgery performed through one or more small incisions, sometimes called ports, rather than through a large open incision. Although some may use the terms interchangeably, the phrases "endoscopic," "laparoscopic," and "minimally invasive,"have unique meanings.

Minimal access, or minimally invasive surgery, refers to surgical procedures done through one or more small incision (usually two inches or less) rather than a large incision.

Resection is the surgical removal of all or part of an organ, such as a segment of the colon.

Endoscopic surgery (literally "looking inside") is the insertion of a small scope, either through a natural orifice or through a tiny incision, to view or collect tissue samples from an organ. Endoscopy is used to evaluate, diagnose, and treat a range of conditions in the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, reproductive system, and more.

Many procedures have specific names, such as bronchoscopy (to view the lower airways) or colonoscopy (to view the colon). In these terms, "scope" refers to the small, flexible scope inserted into the body for imaging during the procedure. The prefix denotes the location, such that laparoscopic surgery refers to procedures in the abdomen or pelvic cavity, arthroscopic refers to a procedures in the joint, thoracoscopy refers to procedures in the chest (thorax), and so on. In some procedures, the scope is inserted through one port, while a surgical instrument is inserted through a second tiny port.

During procedures in the abdomen, surgeons first fill the pelvic cavity with carbon dioxide gas to create a space for the surgical instruments. After the procedure, the gas is removed from the body cavity to minimize discomfort and pain .

Columbia University Medical Center NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Patient Clinician Researcher