Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery

Surgeons at UC San Diego Health offer a new approach to minimally invasive surgery that uses one incision hidden in the belly button.

Minimally invasive surgery involves fewer, smaller incisions than open surgery, and sometimes, no incisions at all. Using specialized instruments such as tiny video cameras and digitally enhanced displays of the surgical area, our surgical experts are able to achieve an even greater degree of precision for delicate procedures.

The result is safer and better care, faster recovery, reduced scarring, and less discomfort.

Generally, there are three levels of invasiveness for surgical procedures:

  • Noninvasive surgery does not break the skin or go beyond a normal body opening. An example of noninvasive surgery is stereotactic radiosurgery, which directs highly focused radiation at a brain tumor, for example.
  • Open surgery involves cutting skin and tissues, so that the surgeon has direct access and visibility of the area or organs requiring attention.
  • Minimally invasive surgery makes smaller incisions than open surgery. The result is faster healing. Examples of minimally invasive surgery are laparoscopic, robot-assisted, endovascular and Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery (NOTES).

Minimally Invasive Surgical Methods

Our surgeons are skilled in the following minimally invasive surgical techniques:

  • Laparoscopic surgery
    A small incision is made in the abdominal wall through which an instrument called a laparoscope is inserted. With this method, large pieces of diseased tissue or cancerous or damaged organs can be removed from the body without needing a large incision. Learn more about laparoscopic surgery in our Health Library.
  • Endoscopic surgery
    A thin tube with a small camera and a light attached is moved through a surgical opening or body passageway (such as the respiratory tract) to examine the organ or tissue. Advances in endoscopic medicine has lead to the development of new endoscopic tools that enable physicians to see, diagnose, and treat numerous conditions. Learn more about advanced endoscopy.
  • Endovascular surgery
    A small incision is made near the hip to access blood vessels, and a long catheter is slid through an artery. This technique is used to treat problems affecting blood vessels, such as an aneurysm. Clogs are treated with a self-adjusting stent or inflatable balloon.
  • Robot-assisted surgery
    This special form of minimally invasive surgery uses advanced, computer-enhanced technologies, such as the da Vinci surgical system. Robot-assisted surgery is associated with improved patient outcomes and less pain, blood loss, scarring and time to recuperate. Learn more about the benefits of robot-assisted surgery.
  • Natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery (NOTES)
    Our team is advancing scarless surgery techniques called natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) that involve operating on damaged or diseased organs through natural openings in the body. Read an interview with Dr. Santiago Horgam about NOTES.

At UC San Diego Health, minimally invasive surgical methods are used to treat a wide range of conditions across multiple specialties, including: