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Tiny Incisions for the Smallest Patients

January 10th, 2017

Any parent can imagine the fear you might experience if your child needs an operation. There are so many questions and concerns, worries and fears. For children and families in the Chattanooga area, a team of some of the most highly trained and experienced pediatric surgeons in the country is prepared to provide safe and effective surgical care. What’s more, they can perform many procedures using minimally invasive techniques – even on the tiniest newborn babies. 

“Our first priority is to assess the child and decide exactly what needs to be done to correct the problem, then we think about the family. It’s so important for the family to have every question answered and to have an understanding about rather complex surgical procedures we’re going to do. We work hard to establish that relationship of trust,” says Dave Bhattacharya, M.D., pediatric surgeon with University Surgical Associates.  “Then we work together with the larger pediatric team – whether that’s the intensive care unit, cardiology, pulmonology and others – to develop a plan for the best possible outcome.”  

Advantages of Minimally Invasive Surgery 

Adults have had the benefit of minimally invasive surgery for many years, but only recently have these techniques been adapted for children. Curt Koontz, M.D., fellowship trained pediatric surgeon with University Surgical Associates, is one of the nation’s most experienced pediatric surgeons who uses these minimally invasive techniques to reduce surgical trauma, reduce incision size, and help speed healing. He’s also pioneered the use of these methods and was the first in the region to perform many procedures laparoscopically including hernia repair, extravascular cardiac operations, resection of the esophagus, and single site gallbladder and colon procedures among others.  

“There are several benefits to using minimally invasive techniques whenever possible. The first benefit is cosmetic. Instead of one larger incision on the belly, you have several smaller incisions that heal very quickly,” Dr. Koontz says.“But there’s also a lesser chance of a hernia developing because of surgery and less pain after the procedure. Less pain often translates to a shorter hospital stay – something every parent hopes for, and is an added advantage.” 

Pediatric surgery is different from adult surgery, and that’s why seeking care at a dedicated pediatric hospital, like Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, is so important. The tiny surgical tools used  are only 3 millimeters long, allowing for the same tiny incisions. Even though the incisions are small, these surgeries are just as safe and effective as traditional open procedures. 

“We don’t perform pediatric surgeries in an adult operating room – everything is specifically tailored to children and their needs. We also have highly trained staff who are certified in pediatric advanced life support and anesthesiologists who use specialized methods that are customized for children,” Dr. Koontz says. “We have the added benefit of a dedicated pediatric emergency room, intensive care unit, operating rooms and subspecialty resources needed to offer the most effective options – without needing to leave this community.” 

“In no way is minimally invasive surgery a shortcut; the same, big operation is performed on the inside with a small incision (with its cosmetic appeal) on the outside,” says Lisa A. Smith, M.D., pediatric surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “We are trained in both traditional and minimally invasive approaches, which enables us to achieve optimal surgical results.”

Care for Every Need

As part of their training, pediatric surgeons at University Surgical Associates are board-certified general surgeons –  meaning they can care for children of all ages into adulthood. They also have the backing of a team of surgeons who are highly trained in their respective specialties to call on for support and advice, if needed. 

“Parents often have more questions than answers when they come to us, and we’re honored they trust us with their children’s lives,” Dr. Bhattacharya says. “We love working with our team of ER pediatricians, radiologists, ICU doctors, and other surgeons to provide answers to their questions and to let them know their child will receive the very best care they possibly right here in Chattanooga. That’s a very fulfilling thing.” 


Click here for more information about University Surgical’s pediatric surgery capabilities. 


Posted by University Surgical  | Category: Pediatric Surgery

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