The number of complications and hospital readmissions has risen sharply with the increased use of keyhole surgery techniques.
The risks of being readmitted within 30 days after keyhole surgery have increased 1.38 times, data from Ontario, Canada has revealed.
Laparoscopic cholecystectomy the removal of the gallbladder by keyhole surgery has quickly become the standard procedure in Ontario in just three years. In 1990, just 1 per cent of cholecystectomies was performed laparoscopically; by 1993, this had risen to 86 per cent.
But this simpler procedure has brought with it a legion of problems. The number of bile duct injuries has increased by 305 per cent in the same three years.
Researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences, who discovered the problems, believe the blame may be laid at the door of the procedure, and not the surgeons carrying out the operation.
This is one of the first times that researchers have questioned the safety of the keyhole procedure. Instead, the surgeon and his lack of skill has always been considered the culprit. "The literature suggests there is a learning curve, but our data shows there hasn't been a decline in injuries over the past few years," comments Marsha Cohen, from the Institute.
Ontario also seems to have more than its fair share of gall bladder operations; there was a 30 per cent increase in procedures once keyhole surgery became established, an increase on a total that was already three times higher than that of England and the rest of Europe.