Open Versus Minimally Invasive Surgery: What's The Difference?

Surgeries are performed for many reasons. Cosmetic surgeries, for example, are often planned to modify a person's physical appearance. On the other hand, medical surgeries are sometimes a matter of emergency.

According to MedlinePlus, surgeries are largely done to prevent pain or alleviate symptoms linked to certain conditions. In some cases, they are necessary to save lives. In 2009, over 48 million surgical inpatient procedures took place in the United States alone, says Stanford Medicine. These numbers illustrate the importance of surgeries.

Just as the reason for surgery varies, so does the method. Depending on the condition, surgeons can choose to perform open or minimally invasive surgery. According to Meril Life Sciences, the extent of your disease, as well as the purpose of the surgery, will determine the best kind of surgery to utilize. When choosing a preferred surgery type, it's important to take into consideration the recommendations of your doctor.

What do these surgeries entail?

Open surgery, according to Far North Surgery, is a traditional surgical procedure, often referred to as a major surgery, in which large incisions are made to gain access to the needed organ. 

A minimally invasive surgery, on the other hand, is less complicated, says Stanford Medicine. According to the source, this type of surgery does not require a large incision on the body. This often translates into faster recovery for patients.

A minimally invasive surgery also uses a range of procedures, including endoscopy, laparoscopy, arthroscopy, hysteroscopy, and bronchoscopy, among others, says the University of Rochester.

According to Meril Life Sciences, the major difference between an open and minimally invasive surgery is the incision size, which also translates to shorter or longer recuperation times. While open surgeries require larger incisions, which also mean a longer recuperation time, minimally invasive surgeries require small incisions, encouraging faster recovery.

Open surgery vs. minimally invasive surgery

Open surgeries are typically used for organ transplants, as per Far North Surgery. These include heart and kidney transplants. The removal of organs such as the kidneys and gallbladder also involves open surgery, notes Stanford Medicine.

According to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, types of minimally invasive surgeries include bariatric and endocrine surgery, amongst others. Minimally invasive surgeries can also help assess illnesses and injuries and can be used to make repairs and take tissue samples for further analysis, per the University of Rochester. For example, a thoracoscopy can help treat issues within your chest cavity, says Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Minimally invasive surgeries are highly beneficial because they're less painful than open surgery, says Meril Life Sciences. In addition, healing is faster with minimally invasive surgery than with open surgery, with the former leaving fewer scars.

However, not all conditions can be treated with minimally invasive surgery, so it's important to discuss the risks and benefits of each type of surgery with your doctor. Your doctor will also advise on pre-surgery preparations that need to be taken, depending on the condition being treated.