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General Surgery
Surgical Procedures & Innovations Minimal Access

The Division of General Surgery is dedicated to performing surgical procedures using minimal access techniques whenever possible, so that patients may enjoy faster recovery and fewer post-surgical complications. As such, the division has become a leader in laparoscopic, and endoscopic, surgery in the full range of subspecialties. Division surgeons include many of the most accomplished and proficient surgeons in the country, who routinely employ minimal access techniques in:

To facilitate the continued application of minimal access techniques to patient care, the Division of General Surgery maintains several world-renowned laboratories devoted exclusively to research on minimal access techniques and outcomes.

What is Minimal Access Surgery?

Minimal access surgery is completed with one or more small incisions instead of a large incision. The surgeon passes a telescope with video camera through a small incision (usually only 1/4" long) into a body cavity. The surgeon then views the surgery on a TV monitor. Surgical instruments are then passed through other similar little incisions. The surgeon examines and operates on the area in question by viewing magnified images on a television. When the telescope is used to operate on the abdomen, the procedure is called laparoscopy. When used in the chest, the procedure is called thoracoscopy, and when used in a joint, it is called arthroscopy.


The introduction of minimal access surgery into common practice began in 1985, when laparoscopic cholecystectomy was first performed to remove a diseased gallbladder. In the immediate years thereafter, a small number of surgeons in the U.S. pioneered the development of laparoscopic techniques for this and other surgical applications. Recognizing the importance of their potential to improve patient care, Columbia University was one of the very first U.S. academic institutions to support the development of minimal access technologies and techniques. Columbia initiated key research protocols in the physiology and immunology of laparoscopic surgery, which provided critical data during the next decade. The compelling results of these studies clearly dictated the wisdom of applying minimal access techniques to more types of surgeries; hence the establishment of the NewYork-Presbyterian Minimal Access Surgery Center and expansion of its training facilities in 1998.

Today, the General Surgery Division's commitment to minimal access surgery is strengthened and complemented by the efforts of the NewYork-Presbyterian Minimal Access Surgery Center (MASC). MASC is a vibrant joint program of NewYork Weill Cornell Medical Center and Columbia University Medical Center, and performs over 4300 minimal access procedures annually.

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Columbia University Medical Center NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Patient Clinician Researcher