By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: July 25th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Imagine having major surgery that requires no general anesthesia, very little recovery time and no visible scars. Sound too good to be true? Not according to a group of doctors who are pioneering the movement for natural opening surgery, in which major organs are removed through a patient’s mouth, nose or other bodily opening.

It may sound repellent to some, but others say the ick factor is worth it for scar-free surgery. Some surgeons are so enthusiastic they have started their own group, Noscar [no-scar], which stands for Natural Orifice Surgery Consortium for Assessment and Research.

The idea has been gaining momentum since 2004, after surgeons in India videotaped a patient having an appendix removed through his mouth. And a four-year-old boy has had a brain tumor removed through his nose. Some surgeons also are trying other procedures involving other organs.

The natural opening movement is an extension of a trend that started in the late 1980s and 1990s to make surgery less intrusive. It’s much like laparoscopic surgery, which replaced long incisions with three or four holes, each about a half-inch wide. The procedure vastly reduced pain and recovery time. Advocates say the natural-opening approach holds the promise of going a step beyond that by eliminating the need for those punctures.

Still, experts… who point out that conventional minimally invasive procedures have been proved safe and effective… warn the new method is relatively untested on humans, and more research is required before doctors can judge whether it’s truly effective.