Health Alert: New gall bladder surgery eliminates incisions

NATIONAL (NBC) - Going "under the knife" may soon be an out-of-date phrase. Surgeons are now conducting some surgeries without incisions.

Albert Pagliuca has gallstones, and like a half million other Americans, every year he could have had standard surgery to remove the gall bladder itself.

Patients often go home the same day, but the post-surgical pain can be debilitating.

"Most of the pain that people experience are due to the actual cuts in the skin and abdominal wall," explained Dr. Eric Hungness.

At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, surgeons John Martin, Nathanial Soper and Eric Hungness tried something new.

"If we can eliminate those incisions on the abdominal wall we believe that there will be less pain in the patient post-operatively, less of a chance of infection and less of a chance of hernias occurring," said Dr. Soper.

Instead of doing the surgery from the outside, Albert's gall bladder came out from the inside.

First, a flexible tube descends into the stomach. Instruments from inside the tube then open a hole to the gall bladder and remove it.

"It's pulled into the stomach, and then pulled back through the esophagus, and out the mouth," Dr. Martin explained.

It's called Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery, or 'NOTES' for short.

It's only been tried before in Portland, Oregon.

Currently, surgeons still open a few small incisions in the skin, just to make sure they're on target, but eventually, they won't cut through the skin at all.

Albert's the first of 20 patients who'll be part of a study at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Posted by Bryce Mursch