Laparoscopic (or key-hole) surgery is performed using several small incisions (typically 5-10 millimeters long) in the tummy, rather than a single long cut (laparotomy). The tummy is blown up by inflating it with a gas, carbon dioxide. Exactly the same operation is performed with laparoscopic surgery as would be with a laparotomy but laparoscopic surgery uses long, thin, specially adapted instruments passed through the tummy wall.
The principle advantage of laparoscopic colorectal surgery is that the smaller cuts in the tummy cause less pain. As a consequence, patients may mobilise more quickly, have a shorter hospital stay and get back to normal activity and work faster. There may be additional advantages in causing less scarring, fewer wound infection and fewer hernias compared with open surgery.
In Oxford, all the colorectal surgeons can offer laparoscopic surgery. Some patients may not be deemed suitable for this approach because of the nature and site of the tumour or other factors such as extensive surgery. On other occasions, the surgeon may decide after starting the case laparoscopically, that during the operation a laparotomy is needed to complete the operation safely.
Oxford has been at the forefront of laparoscopic surgery and continues to lead developments such as single port surgery. In recognition of this, Oxford is one of the National Training Centres for Laparoscopic Colorectal Surgery (Lapco).