The field of minimally invasive surgery in newborns and infants is relatively new. Over the last several decades the pediatric surgery team at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children (RMHC) has led efforts around the world to develop instruments and perfect techniques.

“For everything from an appendectomy to complex lung malformations and tumors that may develop in a child’s torso, we have found that children do much better with a minimally invasive approach,” says Steven Rothenberg, MD, chief of pediatric surgery at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

“They have far less pain and fewer complications. They have shorter recoveries, and they spend only a fraction of the time in the hospital. Of course, kids don’t go back to work, but parents often do. And, if you can have kids healthy and out of the hospital much quicker, it allows parents to get back to their normal routines and lives.”

It also minimizes the long-term consequences of open surgery in children as the grow. This includes problems like chest wall deformity, shoulder muscle weakness following a large chest incision or scar formation that could cause a bowel obstruction following open abdominal procedures.

The list of available minimally invasive surgical options is extensive.

Dr. Rothenberg and his practice colleagues, Saundra Kay, MD; Sarah Lai, MD, MSc; and Kristin Shipman, MD, routinely perform minimally invasive procedures such as gall bladder surgery and have performed more minimally invasive anti-reflux procedures than any other hospital in the United States. Dr. Rothenberg was also the first surgeon in the world to perform minimally invasive surgery in infants who have tracheoesophageal fistula with esophageal atresia (birth defects that can cause significant breathing and swallowing problems). He was also the first surgeon in the country to perform a minimally invasive lobectomy for congenital lung formations and the repair of a condition that stops food or liquid from leaving a baby’s stomach (called duodenal atresia).

Even before a child is born, Dr. Rothenberg and other surgeons at RMHC can perform minimally invasive fetal surgery to improve outcomes for pregnant women and their babies.

“Some of these procedures are quite dramatic.” Dr. Rothenberg says. “For example, twin-twin transfusion syndrome is a serious condition that can jeopardize both babies when they are still in-utero. We can perform surgery before birth to correct the condition and save both babies.”

Techniques for fetal, neonatal, infant and pediatric minimally invasive surgery continue to expand the horizon for what is possible. Recently, Dr. Rothenberg and his team began working with Jaren Riley, MD, a pediatric spine specialist with OrthoONE at RMHC to become the first hospital in Colorado to offer vertebral body tethering, a new minimally invasive approach to the treatment of scoliosis.

“It’s important for parents to know that almost all the operations we do can now be done with minimally invasive techniques,” says Dr. Rothenberg. “It makes a real difference to kids. They avoid unnecessary scarring as well as the risks and pains of open surgery, and they have excellent results.”

Get more information about how minimally invasive surgery works and the technology that goes into a minimally invasive operating room.