Scarless Surgery

"It was horrible. It was intense," Dana Johnson recalls.

She is describing the gallbladder attack that sent her to the emergency room a few weeks ago.

"It was a like a lot of knives stabbing at me repeatedly, in the stomach area and the kidneys," Johnson says.

Though Johnson knew she'd need surgery, she never imagined this -- an operation that would remove her gallbladder without leaving a single scar.

"That's the goal: less pain, less disfigurement, less disability," says Mark Talamini, M.D., a surgeon at the University of California San Diego.

Dr. Talamini is performing a new kind of procedure called natural orifice surgery. Essentially, it's major surgery without the major incision.

"And the idea is, rather than making incisions in the abdominal wall, you go through an orifice that the good Lord gave us," Dr. Talamini explains.

The surgeon enters the body through the mouth or, in Johnson's case, the vagina. Then, using specialized tools, he's able to locate the gallbladder and remove it. There's almost no pain or scarring. Recovery time is quicker -- hours, compared to weeks. The only incision is a tiny one in the bellybutton to help surgeons guide their instruments.

"You can't hardly even tell you can look at my bellybutton and just see a tiny stitch, it's amazing," Johnson says.

She was one of the first people in the United States to have the experimental surgery. Johnson was home the very next day and able to walk her dogs pain free.

"It's great because it's a medical advancement. I absolutely have no reservations that it will be useful," Johnson says.

Doctors hope Johnson's success story is a sign of things to come. For now, this new approach to surgery is still in the research stage. But already, doctors say it isn't just for gallbladders. The same kind of procedure could be used for appendectomies and even tubal ligations.


Jackie Carr
(619) 543-6163

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