The word surgery has always conjured the image of blood, incisions and stitches – with the doctor “opening up” the patient, who then has to spend weeks or months in painful recovery.
However, with the advent of new technology and surgical techniques, specifically minimally invasive surgery (MIS), the future now looks a lot less “bloody” for surgical patients.
“As opposed to open surgery, MIS is more beneficial to patients, allowing them to recover faster and lessen, if not avoid, possible infections after undergoing the procedure,” said Dr. Alfred Allen E. Buenafe, internationally trained lecturer, surgeon and executive director of the newly opened MIS Training Center of Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City.
The MIS Training Center is the first training facility of its kind in the country. It was designed to enable local and foreign medical experts to access modern surgical equipment and learn under the best medical professionals in the field of advanced surgery.
Buenafe, who has made a name for himself in MIS both here and abroad, said the center traces its beginnings to a dream of providing world-class MIS training to local surgeons.
“I trained in the field of MIS abroad after I graduated here. When I got back, I realized that only a few MIS workshops were being held for surgeons in the country,” he recalled.
Realizing the importance of MIS techniques to benefit patients, Buenafe and his colleagues held workshops in conference rooms and parking lots – converting them into temporary operating rooms.
The lack of opportunities for Filipino surgeons to study MIS bothered Buenafe, especially when he was invited to join the Asia Endosurgery Task Force, a group of well-known surgeons who train their colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region. The idea of building a training center for this purpose was finally conceived in early 2009.
“The most basic of the MIS procedures, laparoscopic cholesystectomy or the removal of the gallbladder using the laparoscopy technique, has actually existed in the country since 1990,” the MIS executive director explained.
Unlike open surgery, which involves making large incisions on the body to see the entire area to be operated on, laparoscopy allows the surgeon to conduct MIS using a small, lighted tube to see the patient’s insides through a camera.
This instrument is inserted after a few, small incisions are made on the body – lessening physiological trauma for the patient and enabling the person to recover quickly from the operation.
“However, despite its presence in the country for more than two decades, the practice of open surgery is still prevalent among Filipino surgeons. It’s either the surgeon does not want to conduct laparoscopy, he or she is not trained for it, or he or she does not have the skills and knowledge at all,” Buenafe said.
He said the number of PhilHealth claims filed reveal this sad fact: Close to 80 percent of gallbladder removal surgeries are still conducted the traditional way.
The MIS Training Center provides the facilities and a “safe haven” for surgeons who want to train there.
“A surgeon interested in MIS can train there because it is the only one in the country that is comparable to those found in advanced countries,” Buenafe said.
He also emphasized that local surgeons could also save thousands of pesos in foreign training costs by availing of the MIS Training Center’s resources.