Progress in gastrointestinal tract surgery: the impact of gastrointestinal endoscopy

H G Beger, A Schwarz, U Bergmann
Surgical Endoscopy 2003, 17 (2): 342-50

BACKGROUND: Gastrointestinal (GI) tract surgeons were challenged with the development of two revolutionary surgical specialities: laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery. Minimal access surgery currently is the surgical speciality with the greatest impact on patient care. Regarding the competitive treatment methods (open, laparoscopic, and intraluminal endoscopic management), each new treatment must be evaluated on the evidence of the patient's benefit, surgical morbidity, short- and long-term outcome, cost effectiveness and maintenance of quality of life.

METHODS: On the basis of randomized clinical trials, minimal access surgery results in reduced postoperative pain, reduced early postoperative analgetic medication, reduced frequency of systemic inflammatory response syndrome and systemic complications, early restoration of normal bowel function, and minimalization of wounds and skin scars. Among the well-established laparoscopic procedures, laparoscopic cholecystectomy has been convincingly demonstrated as superior to open cholecystectomy on the basis of controlled clinical trials. Superior benefit in favor of laparoscopic hernia repair has been demonstrated only regarding a lower level of pain, a higher level of physical activity, and earlier return to work. However, in terms of operating time and costs, open repair without mesh has benefits. Laparoscopic appendectomy offers benefits in terms of pain reduction, faster postoperative recovery, and lower incidence of wound infections, but has major drawbacks with regard to longer operating time, higher local complication rates, and significantly higher costs for total hospitalization. A cost study group concluded from a randomized clinical trial that only minimal short-term quality-of-life benefits were found for laparoscopically assisted colon resection, as compared with standard open colectomy, for colon cancer. On the basis of controlled clinical trials, there is only a little doubt that the laparoscopic approach is currently the operative treatment of choice for gastroesophageal reflux compliance. Endoscopic intraluminal techniques are increasingly important for minimalization of surgical treatment. For ulcer bleedings, endoscopic treatment is the established first choice. A major old and new challenge for GI tract surgeons is the intraluminal endoscopic approach to lesions. For neoplastic lesion in the esophagus (> 2 cm, mucosa restricted), Barrett's epithelium, early gastric cancer, adenoma of the ampulla of Vater, T1+, TIM lesion of the large bowel, T1 cancer of the rectum, intraluminal endoscopic treatment methods are increasingly replacing open surgical resection or even a laparoscopic technique. The surgeon must be aware that many of the local surgical complications, particularly those of GI tract anastomoses, are managed by endoscopic techniques.

CONCLUSIONS: The GI tract surgeon must accumulate competent endoscopic experience. His responsibility for GI diseases focuses on surgical treatment using minimal access surgical techniques including surgical endoscopy in preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative settings. This major assignment is a challenge not only for GI tract surgeons in the near future.

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