Children's Hospital Colorado

Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Center for Children's Surgery

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Minimally invasive surgery is a unique surgical approach using small incisions rather than the large incisions that are made in traditional open surgery. At Children's Hospital Colorado, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is used whenever possible as an alternative to traditional open surgery. Our specialized providers are among the leaders in the field of pediatric minimally invasive surgery.

What are the benefits of minimally invasive surgery?

  • Less tissue trauma (damage) due to smaller incisions
  • Less pain
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Quicker recovery
  • Quicker return to school and regular activity including sports
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Less scarring

What are the types of minimally invasive surgery?

  • Laparoscopy: procedures done in the abdomen, including single-incision pediatric endoscopic surgery
  • Thoracoscopy: procedures performed in the chest
  • Fetoscopy: procedures performed in the uterus

How do I help prepare my child for minimally invasive surgery?

  • Preparation for minimally invasive surgery is similar to other procedures. Your child must follow our eating and drinking rules before surgery to make sure their stomach is empty at the time of anesthesia. If your child's stomach is not empty at the time of anesthesia, their stomach contents can come up and enter their lungs. This is called aspiration, which can cause serious problems.
  • Discuss your child's medicines with the anesthesia team to find out if your child can take them. In general, there are some medicines your child can still take with a sip of water.

What happens during minimally invasive surgery?

  • Your child will be under general anesthesia during the surgery. General anesthesia keeps your child asleep during surgery so they will not feel any pain, and will not have any memory of the procedure.
  • The surgeon makes a small incision (2 to 5 mm) to gain access to the appropriate part of the body. Two mm is the size of a peppercorn and 5 mm is the size of a chickpea. The surgeon then places surgical instruments through special ports (openings). A camera with a light system is also introduced through the port to allow the surgeon to see the area. The surgeon will fill the surgical area with carbon dioxide gas to expand it, which provides a better view.
  • The surgeon will use the surgical instruments to explore, remove or repair a problem within your child's body. After the procedure, the surgeon will close the port site with absorbable sutures (stitches) under the skin.
  • Surgery time for minimally invasive procedures varies based on the type of procedure your child will have. On average, the surgery can take 30 minutes to two hours. Some complex procedures may take longer depending on your child's condition.

What can we expect after my child's minimally invasive surgery?

  • Side effects your child may have after minimally invasive surgery include:
    • Nausea and vomiting: Similar to any other procedure performed under anesthesia, your child may have some nausea and vomiting. These are related to the anesthesia medicines that are used, as well as to operative manipulation. At Children's Colorado, our team utilizes approaches to decrease postoperative nausea, vomiting and pain.
    • Shoulder pain: A unique side effect caused by minimally invasive surgery is shoulder pain that usually occurs for up to two to three days after surgery. This is caused by the carbon dioxide gas that is used during the procedure. It will spontaneously go away on its own.
  • Hospital stay varies depending on the type of procedure your child has. The hospital stay is usually one to five days.
  • Recovery also varies after the procedure, but in general children can return to most regular activities within a few days to a week. Your child may take a shower two days after surgery. They should not swim or take a bath in a tub for one week after surgery.

How do I care for my child during recovery from minimally invasive surgery?

  • Pain control: Your child's care team will provide a pain management plan for your child to follow at home. Your child may only need Tylenol® and Motrin® to control pain. Occasionally, the doctor may prescribe pain medicine for a short period of time.
  • Eating and drinking: In most cases, your child's diet will be advanced in the hospital and will be eating regular foods by the time they are discharged from the hospital.
  • Activity: In general, gradual return to activities is recommended. If your child is taking prescription pain medicine, keep your child at home. Certain complex procedures will require specific activity instructions and limitations. Your child's care team will provide these instructions to you.

Why choose Children's Colorado for my child's minimally invasive surgery?

Our expert pediatric surgeons offer complex minimally invasive procedures in several surgical specialties for children of all ages – from unborn babies to adolescents. For example, we offer a one-of-a kind continuum of care for any condition that is diagnosed prenatally. This care includes our pre-eminent multidisciplinary care team members at the Colorado Fetal Care Center, personalized delivery planning with our top-ranked NICU, and follow-up care at our dedicated multidisciplinary clinic. We use this team approach with our adolescent and teenage patients as well.

Some of the common minimally invasive procedures we perform include:

Some of the complex minimally invasive procedures we perform include:

If you have any questions and/or concerns, call the ParentSmart Healthline toll free at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Caring pediatric nurses are available 24/7 to help answer your health questions.