In minimally invasive surgery, doctors use a variety of techniques to operate with less damage to the body than with open surgery. In general, minimally invasive surgery is associated with less pain, a shorter hospital stay and fewer complications.

Laparoscopy — surgery done through one or more small incisions, using small tubes and tiny cameras and surgical instruments — was one of the first types of minimally invasive surgery. Another type of minimally invasive surgery is robotic surgery. It provides a magnified, 3-D view of the surgical site and helps the surgeon operate with precision, flexibility and control.

Continual innovations in minimally invasive surgery make it beneficial for people with a wide range of conditions. If you need surgery and think you may be a candidate for this approach, talk with your doctor.

Types of minimally invasive surgery

Surgeons perform many minimally invasive surgeries, including:

Robotic heart surgery – What you should know and what you should ask

Mayo Clinic's approach


Why it's done

Minimally invasive surgery emerged in the 1980s as a safe and effective technique to meet the surgical needs of many patients. In the last 20 years, many surgeons have come to prefer it to traditional (open) surgery, which requires larger incisions and, usually, a longer hospital stay.

Since then the use of minimally invasive surgery has expanded widely in many surgical specialties, including colon and lung surgery. Talk with your doctor about whether you would be a good candidate for this surgical approach.


Minimally invasive surgery uses smaller surgical incisions, and it's generally less risky than traditional surgery. But even with minimally invasive surgery, there are risks of complications with anesthesia, bleeding and infection.

The Mayo Clinic experience and patient stories

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care like they've never experienced. See the stories of satisfied Mayo Clinic patients.

  1. Freed From Lymphedema by Unique, Minimally Invasive Surgery

      Joni Carithers was forced to deal with swelling in her arm due to lymphedema for years following breast cancer surgery. But in 2016, microsurgery at Mayo Clinic finally relieved the discomfort that had vexed her for so long. Joni Kay Carithers is the kind of person who doesn't let anything get in her way, [...]

Dec. 30, 2017
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  15. Riggin EA. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 10, 2014.
  16. AskMayoExpert. Robot-assisted kidney surgery. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
  17. AskMayoExpert. VATS lobectomy. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
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  19. AskMayoExpert. Knee replacement. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
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Minimally invasive surgery