New twist on laparoscopic surgery

HOUSTON "Real, real bad pain that was travelling to my mid-back and the top of my shoulder," said patient Maribel Rivera.

Her gall bladder turned out to be full of gallstones and needed to come out. She chose a new surgery with a single incision through the belly button.

"I thought this was a great idea," she said. "It was gonna be just one small incision and my recovery time was going to be quite faster."

"I can't even imagine how they're gonna do it," said Maribel's husband Leroy Rivera.

Many of the laparoscopic procedures that took three or four holes can now be done in one incision through the belly button.

"I've done appendectomies," said Dr. Guillermo Ponce de Leon, surgeon at Memorial Herman Hospital. "I've done right colons -- that's for cancer. For cancer, I've removed adrenal glands."

The technology that makes belly button surgery possible is a flexible video camera that allows the surgeon to see any angle. The retrieval equipment also fits in the belly button at the same time.

"The scarring is minimal and you have one place you can potentially have infection instead of four places," said Dr. Ponce de Leon.

Expect to see outpatient surgical centers fill up as they do more and more belly button procedures, including removing a kidney through a one inch incision.

In Maribel's case, you can't see the belly button incision where the surgeon just pulled her gallbladder out.

"I was surprised and I was grateful," said Maribel.

"I think more patients will ask for it and the skill level of the surgeons will improve so everyone should be able to do it," said Dr. Ponce de Leon.

More than half a dozen surgeries are now being done through the single belly button incision by surgeons here in Houston.


Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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