LESS is an emerging surgical technique which may promise further reductions in morbidity and improved cosmesis for patients. Emerging data on LESS has been reported in general surgical, gynecologic, and urologic procedures [17
]. LESS for renal surgery was first reported in 2007 and since then a handful of authors have described variations of their technique in order to perform both RN and more recently PN for a variety of indications [10
]. This report represents the first report in the literature of LESS-RN with renal vein thrombectomy and cytoreductive nephrectomy and the second group to report LESS-PN in adults. As such, this report further corroborates (partial nephrectomy) and demonstrates (renal vein thrombectomy) that increasingly complex procedures can be safely performed with the LESS platform.
In order for LESS to become a viable alternative to traditional multi-site laparoscopy, it must first be proven to be feasible, safe, and reproducible and with equivalent outcomes. While there are few reported cases of LESS procedures, the existing data has demonstrated impressive initial outcomes comparable to traditional laparoscopy [26
]. This is consistent with our experience; nine of ten cases were completed without the need for conversion to open or traditional laparoscopic technique, OR times to complete these were (mean total cohort) 161 minutes, EBL was 125
mL and no patients required blood transfusions. This is comparable to existing large multi-site series which demonstrate means of 105–201 minutes OR time, 172–300
cc EBL and 4.5% transfusion rates [4
]. All patients had negative margins, and patients who underwent LESS-PN had mean WIT under 30 minutes, without significant changes in creatinine and eGFR, consistent with excellent short-term renal preservation. While the numbers are small, this is certainly also comparable to a large multi-institutional series of multi-site LPN which demonstrated a mean warm ischemia time of 30.7
minutes, and preoperative and postoperative creatinine of 1.01 and 1.18 mg/dL, respectively [8
]. Complications rate was reasonable with only one patent having a significant complication despite the complexity and novelty of these procedures. As surgeons, OR staff, and technologies improve, we only anticipate these outcomes to improve further.
Once LESS has overcome the initial threshold and found to be comparable to the existing laparoscopic standard, it must offer a significant advantage for surgeons and patients to invest in this emerging technique. LESS allows RN and PN to be performed with fewer incisions as compared with traditional laparoscopic technique. The average incision size in this series was 4.42
cm with no need for any additional incisions. In addition to excellent postoperative cosmesis () afforded by substitution of multiple trocar sites in traditional laparoscopy by often almost imperceptible scars in the umbilical region, significant QoL benefits may be attained by minimization of abdominal incision. Prior work has demonstrated that decreasing incision size or specimen morcellation may decrease postoperative discomfort [6
]. However, while morcellation of renal masses may allow for reduction of incision size, it also results in distortion of renal architecture which may compromise accurate staging and grading of RCC [28
]. Thus all LESS procedures were performed adhering to fundamental oncologic principles and tumors were extracted using intact specimen entrapment bags to prevent tumor seeding to the single incision site [29
Consolidation of working trocars and the extraction incision into one site may result in reduced incisional morbidity as evidenced by limited need for narcotic medications in this series (). More than half of the patients in this cohort did not require any narcotic supplementation and of those that did, most did so for less than 24 hours postoperatively. This may in part be due to our pathway which places patients on Ketorolac immediately post operatively [30
]. The resultant benefits of this are translated into preserved quality of life as evidenced by low discharge mean visual analog pain score (1.3), returning to normal nonstrenuous activity in less than one week, the lack of significant difference between preoperative and postoperative SF-36 scores (P
Demographics, Tumor Characteristics, Perioperative Variables, and Outcomes.
Since LESS procedures are relatively new and in evolution, many techniques have been described but no widely accepted standard exists. LESS has gained recent interest, and this has lead surgeons to use traditional tools in unique ways as well as encouraging industry to develop a variety of novel platforms and innovative instruments to ease the learning curve and facilitate these procedures. The gelport laparoscopic system (Applied Medical, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) [11
] is a laparoscopic hand port which allows introduction of multiple trocars while maintaining an airtight seal. Specialty designed single-port laparoscopic systems such as the Uni-X (Pnavel Systems, Morganville, NJ) [32
], R-port (Advanced Surgical Concepts, Dublin, Ireland) [10
], and the SILS port (Covidien, Mansfield, MA) are essentially multiple fixed trocar ports that are inserted through modified Hasson technique. We believe that our technique of using multiple traditional and low-profile trocars placed through a single incision offers some significant advantages. Both the gelport and the specially designed multisite trocars add additional cost to the procedure. Furthermore, specially designed multisite ports have fixed positions which limit separation of the trocars and prevent the use of additional trocars. In 3 cases we added a 4th trocar in the most caudal aspect of the incision, a 12
mm trocar allowed for the insertion of an Endo Paddle retract (Covidien), a retractor used for bowel retraction used for 2 patients with renal vein thrombi and one large upper pole renal mass. While some have suggested that the drawback of our method of LESS is the “swiss cheese” defect and weakening of the fascia, but we have not found this to be the case [33
Triangulation is the primary underlying technical principle in laparoscopy and the greatest hurdle to overcome in LESS. Proximity of the working ports through the single incisions limits achievable separation which is necessary for triangulation. A variety of novel trocars, ports, and instruments have been developed specifically for or adapted for LESS. While we enthusiastically encourage the development of such products and believe that these will improve the technical feasibility of these surgeries our initial experience has been performed without the use of any such specialized tools. We believe that the benefits of using conventional laparoscopic trocars and instruments are primarily two fold: (1) surgeon familiarity and comfort, (2) cost savings [minimizing the use of flexible/articulating instruments which are disposable]. Given that our OR times, and other outcomes are consistent with those of large published series of multiport RN and LPN [4
], we feel that our approach of utilizing conventional laparoscopic instruments facilitates surgeon comfort and safe adoption of the LESS platform with excellent results.
We believe that our utilization of extra-long laparoscopic instruments and cameras creates a zone of extracorporeal triangulation which, when applied through a peri-umbilical incision which is close to the kidney, creates sufficient working freedom and attenuates clashing. Furthermore, our utilization of staggered trocars of lengths and a right-angled camera further minimizes instrument clashing and allowed greater angulation of laparoscopic handles. Thus we have demonstrated the LESS renal surgery can be performed using essentially the same tools that might be used to perform traditional multisite laparoscopy. Articulating instruments, trocars that allow the insertion of bent instruments and flexible laparoscopes all may provide further methods of overcoming these challenges and are in the process of being further evaluated by our group.
Despite advances in LESS considerable challenges remain. The upper posterior pole of the kidney is the most difficult portion of the renal dissection. Even with the use of bariatric laparoscopic instruments this region is difficult to reach because of the greater working distance from the umbilicus, and “turning the corner” or getting over the upper pole to the posterior aspect of the kidney can be demanding with rigid instruments that do not articulate. Additionally retraction of the bowel and liver without multisite laparoscopy is challenging. While future advances in laparoscopes, trocars, and instruments may overcome these technical considerations, novices to LESS renal surgery may consider extra caution in attempting these procedures in patients with greater BMIs and patients with bulky upper pole posterior lesions. Particular consideration must be employed when attempting LESS-PN; while intracorporeal suturing is feasible for obtaining hemostasis and closure of the renal collecting system and parenchyma, tumors that may not be easily accessible from the umbilicus due to distance (such as posterior, upper pole lesions) may present further difficulties and present onerous limitation on being able to deploy laparoscopic needle drivers at a sufficient angle. Indeed, development and refinement of robotically-assisted LESS may allow a greater degree of freedom and surmount such difficulties.
Increased detection of small renal masses has required urologist to gain familiarity with procedures that ensure adequate oncologic control while preserving renal function [34
]. LESS-PN allows for extraction of the enhancing renal lesion, definitive histologic confirmation with excellent preservation of renal function in this series. In a recent publication, Kaouk and Goel utilized a nonischemic technique to perform LESS-PN. After PN these authors achieved hemostasis using ABC, Surgicel and a variety of surgical adhesives, however due to inability to achieve adequate hemostasis in one case they had to convert to multiport laparoscopy [25
]. We attempted a nonischemic technique in one case, utilizing the Habib 4X laparoscopic radiofrequency resection device, which easily fits through the 12
mm laparoscopic port. This device allows excision of the renal mass while maintaining hemostasis by ablating normal renal parenchyma and creating an avascular plane around the tumor allowing excision of the mass with minimal blood loss and preserving histologic integrity of the specimen [16
Despite the novelty of these procedures we rapidly adopted an excellent comfort level for performing complex LESS-RN. Two patients had renal tumors greater then 7
cm, both with renal vein thrombi. One of these patients had widely metastatic disease and elected to undergo cytoreductive LESS-RN. Traditional laparoscopic cytoreductive nephrectomy has been demonstrated to have favorable morbidity when compared with open technique and thus we performed to our knowledge the first reported LESS cytoreductive nephrectomy [35
]. The patient did well and was able to resume targeted biologic therapy on postoperative day 14.
The limited number of procedures and the lack of a direct comparison to traditional multi-site LRN and LPN limit our findings. However, this preliminary prospective series demonstrates that LESS-RN, renal vein thrombectomy, and PN is safe and technically feasible method for performing complex renal surgery while maintaining strict adherence to oncologic principles, with excellent preservation of quality of life, low discharge pain scores, and cosmetic benefit. Our encouraging pilot results have led to a prospective comparison between LESS and multiport laparoscopy, which we hope will delineate what, if any specific advantages, may lie with the LESS approach.