Hospitals Underusing Keyhole Surgery, Study Finds

It seems like a no-brainer: Minimally invasive surgery is less painful, leads to fewer complications and leaves smaller scars. Yet a new study finds hospitals are not using the technique as often as they should. The survey of 1,051 U.S. hospitals in 45 states found that while 71 percent used minimally invasive surgery to take out an appendix, just 13 percent used the approach for a hysterectomy, 28 percent to take out part of the colon and 32 percent to remove part of a diseased lung. That’s even though minimally invasive appendectomies had about one-half the complications and keyhole colon surgery had about a third the complication rate of open surgery.

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Urban hospitals were more likely to use minimally invasive techniques, which involve making small incisions and often using laparascopes. Rural hospitals were less likely to use them, Dr. Martin Makary of Johns Hopkins University and colleagues found. “This disparity may be due to the broad range of surgical services some surgeons in rural areas are required to provide and a scarcity of surgical specialists in such areas with advanced skills in minimally invasive surgery,” they wrote in their report, published in the British Medical Journal.


- Maggie Fox