Laparoscopic or "minimally invasive" surgery refers to a technical approach for performing surgery. As opposed to an "open" approach that uses a large incision to enter the abdominal cavity, with the laparoscopic approach very small (0.5-1cm) incisions are used instead. After the small incisions are made the abdomen is insufflated with carbon dioxide causing the incision sites to open thus allowing for the easy insertion of specialized instruments and a camera (laparoscope) through the incisions. The laparoscope provides visualization of the internal abdominal structures on monitors in the operating room giving the surgeon a detailed view in high definition throughout the surgery.
Due to its "minimally invasive" nature this type of surgery results in less pain, a shorter hospital stay and a faster recovery time for the patient as well as a minimized appearance of scars at the site of the inicisions.
Most colorectal surgeries can safely be performed using the laparoscopic technique. On occasion, under special circumstances (bleeding, adhesions, inflammation, and difficult anatomy) the surgeon may need to convert to an open procedure (use of a large incision) in order to complete the surgery safely.