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2010 - Volume 1 Issue 2
Vida Fronteriza
Health & Wellness
Article: Joe Burgess
courtesy of
Las Palmas Medical Center,
The Back & Neck Institue

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The words "minimally invasive" seem to be the current catch phrase that eases our minds about a visit to the operating room, and there are certainly benefits from addressing specific major internal medical problems through very small openings.

We are talking about less tissue damage, less scarring, less blood loss, less chance of infection, less hospital time, less operative trauma, LESS PAIN, less time away from work…well, the latter may or may not be good news! Hospitals in the El Paso/Las Cruces region have invested heavily in the latest surgical technology, so the only concern for me personally is that I want to ensure my surgeon is very experienced with the Sci-Fi equipment and techniques prescribed for my particular operation. How do you find out? Simple… ask.

    Photo Captions

1.) Dr. Ismael Lopez is one of two physicians trained on da Vinci® Surgical Systems at Mountain View Regional Medical Center.

2.) Mountain View Regional, Las Palmas and Del Sol Medical Centers are among those using the da Vinci® Surgical Systems.

3.) Dr. Robert Urrea, performs spinal surgery using laparoscopic

4.) Doctors Jose Zamudio, Richard Farnam and Salvador Saldivar are part of the Las Palmas and Del Sol Hospitals medical teams trained in the use of robotic-assisted surgery.

5.) Dr. Robert Urrea, owner of The Back & Neck Institute in El Paso.

The Back & Neck Institute

Las Palmas
Medical Center


Del Sol Medical Center

MountainView Regional
Medical Center

Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) is a relatively broad term that has been used for many years for exploratory purposes, like checking for a growth on an intestine. More recently, a specific type of MIS called laparoscopy became the accepted method for removing gall bladders, prostrate glands or a ruptured appendix. It utilizes a scope consisting of a tiny light and camera on the end of a tube slightly larger in diameter than a pencil that projects a magnified image to a monitor and utilizes tiny instruments for surgical work.

Today, laparoscopy is also used successfully for other gastrointestinal surgeries, including bariatric procedures for morbid obesity (see pg. 168), gynecologic and urologic surgeries. Dr. Michael Lara, co-medical director at Las Palmas Del Sol Bariatric Centers, says that he and Dr. Jorge Acosta both took one-year fellowships on the use of laparoscopic techniques, which are almost exclusively those used in their weight loss surgeries. He notes that training and experience are critical for the use of MIS tools.

Another impressive medical advance has taken place in the field of spinal surgery. Dr. Robert Urrea of The Back and Neck Institute in El Paso is one of only a handful of American surgeons who uses minimally invasive endoscopic surgery on sedated, but conscious patients to precisely pinpoint problems and successfully repair discs and other spinal problems. His treatment philosophy is to repair the disc and eliminate pain generating nerve endings with the use of minimally invasive tools and lasers and without resorting to disc fusion whenever possible.

Early in his career, Urrea recognized the need for improved spinal operating procedures and the benefits of operating on conscious patients. Most physicians, even today, are applying general anesthesia, pushing aside muscle and ligaments, cutting through bone and manipulating the spinal cord just to reach the problem disc. Dr. Urrea works the endoscope through the muscle without damaging the tissue and through a natural opening in the side of the vertibra to repair the disc with only slight disturbance to bone and tissue. The patient usually experiences immediate relief with far less potential for complications, and only a single suture to close the small incision in the skin.

Most back pain is due to inflamation that can be alleviated in a matter of weeks through conservative, conventional treatments. When surgery becomes the logical recourse, however, minimally invasive techniques, such as those used by Dr. Urrea, result in minimal patient downtime and longterm successful results, making him one of the most active spinal surgeons in the country.

The da Vinci system is another advancement in MIS, which utilizes robotic arms controlled by a doctor manipulating Play Station-type controls to address gynecological and urological issues in the abdomen. (See: Las Cruces magazine, Fall 2010, p. 40) Its advantages include the use of a 3-D camera and tool arms with very flexible “wrist” actions. Dr. Ismael Lopez at MountainView Regional Medical Center states that the da Vinci system allows for a better view and more precise movements for the specific surgeries currently utililzing the system. Numerous gynocologists and urologists in the region have received training with the robotic system, an option provided by Las Palmas and Del Sol Medical Centers in El Paso and MountainView Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces.

There are limitations, of course, for minimally invasive surgery. A kidney, for instance, or a section of large intestine cannot be removed through a dime-sized incision, but MIS might be used for confirming a problem or preparation for removal. This would still reduce the patient’s downtime and potential for problems.

For any medical procedure, become informed, choose qualified and experienced surgeons for your specific operation and a medical facility known for actually caring about your health as well as their own success rates. It’s not yet Avatar or even Star Trek technology, but advances available in our region are making major medical procedures a lot more tolerable. ///
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