Background: We recently experienced 10 patients with cirrhosis who underwent laparoscopic splenectomy. A portion of these patients underwent dissection with a flexible endoscope in the peritoneal cavity. This pilot study mainly focused on the technical aspects and immediate results. Methods: From November 2009 to September 2010, 10 patients with cirrhosis and hypersplenism were entered into this pilot study. They were indicated to undergo laparoscopic splenectomy to treat portal hypertension and to facilitate initiation and completion of either interferon therapy for liver cirrhosis or anticancer therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma. To dissect the upper end of the gastrosplenic ligament and the marginal region between the left diaphragmand upper pole of the spleen, a flexible single-channel endoscope was introduced into the peritoneal cavity simultaneously with the use of a rigid laparoscope. Dissection with the flexible endoscope in the peritoneal cavity was performed using an insulation-tipped electrosurgical knife through the channel of the flexible endoscope. Results: The flexible endoscope offered a magnified operative view, a water-jet lens cleaner, and a powerful lavage and suction capability. The upper end of the gastrosplenic ligament and the marginal region between the left diaphragm and upper pole of the spleen were easily seen, and dissection of these critical regions was smoothly conducted with articulation of the tip of the flexible endoscope, even in patients with splenomegaly. No patient experienced major intraoperative complications or required conversion to open surgery. Conclusions: Dissection with a flexible endoscope in the peritoneal cavity may be an effective tactic for laparoscopic megasplenectomy, and significant implications for pure natural orifice translumenal endoscopic surgery have been raised. Although future randomized controlled prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings, surgeons might find this to be a typical example of an appropriate strategy for high-risk patients.
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