Doing right by your patients — Dr. Deborah Keller sheds light on laparoscopic colectomy's cost savings & clinical benefits
Despite minimally invasive surgery yielding countless benefits for patients, many physicians are hesitant to adopt the techniques over more conservative options.

Deborah S. Keller, MD, a surgeon practicing at Colorectal Surgical Associates in Houston, conducted a study analyzing both the clinical benefits and cost savings laparoscopic colectomy offers patients compared to open surgery. Her study, published recently in Surgical Endoscopy, found laparoscopy yielded more than $3,200 in cost savings per patient. The total cost for laparoscopy was $17,268, significantly less than open surgery — $20,552. Minimally invasive surgery yields a potential cost savings of nearly $20 million in healthcare utilization over a one-year period.

In addition to the cost savings, MIS also provides patients enhanced clinical outcomes. Dr. Keller and her colleagues found patients who underwent MIS were 24 percent less likely to be readmitted, 44 percent less likely to suffer a complication and 58 percent less likely to experience mortality than patients who underwent open surgery.

"Patients need to know that when feasible, laparoscopic colectomy is the gold standard," Dr. Keller says.

With more evidence proving the effectiveness of MIS, more medical professionals are adopting the technology, but there is room for growth. In her study, "The current status of emergent laparoscopic colectomy: a population-based study of clinical and financial outcomes," Dr. Keller and her fellow researchers found less than 5 percent of urgent and emergent colectomies in the United States are performed laparoscopically.

While many surgeons are aware of MIS' effectiveness, they may feel open surgery is a safer option in emergent cases, which Dr. Keller explains is not always the case.

"Surgeons can always start a procedure laparoscopically and can convert to open surgery in a matter of seconds, if needed," Dr. Keller says. "If patients can handle laparoscopic surgery, the benefits are immeasurable."

Surgeons can also learn these techniques through the different classes that various hospitals and device companies offer. As patients becoming increasingly savvy and aware of the latest and greatest techniques, the surgeons that provide the least invasive techniques may prove a more attractive option for patients. Many patients, however, wholly trust their physician and will trust his/her expertise regarding the best treatment option.

"There is a learning curve, especially given the time commitment to learn the procedures," Dr. Keller says. "Yet, it is our duty as physicians to do the best thing for our patients and offer these MIS techniques."