Laparoscopic appendectomy is widely performed for the treatment of acute appendicitis. Single port laparoscopic appendectomy is rapidly gaining momentum due to improved cosmesis and reduced parietal trauma. TUSPLA is one type of single port laparoscopic appendectomy that yields very satisfactory cosmetic results. In our study, the clinical data of TUSPLA was comparable to that of conventional laparoscopic appendectomy. There were no significant differences in operation time, postoperative hospital stay, postoperative pain, return to diet, or complication rates. This type of surgery can be a very attractive alternative to patients, especially in the younger population.
Performing TUSPLA requires experience in laparoscopic surgery, and a certain number of cases must be performed to overcome the learning curve. In our study, the mean operation time was 58.9 minutes. The cases in the beginning phase took longer than average. As the cases accumulated and operator experience was gained, the operation time tended to shorten. The last seven cases took less than the average 58.9 minutes (). The learning curve for single port cholecystectomy has been reported to be approximately five cases [16
]. Further studies are needed to better determine the learning curve for TUSPLA.
Decreasing operation time according to surgical experience in transumbilical single port laparoscopic appendectomy group. Red line indicates the mean operation time.
Some cases may require drainage, making the term 'single port' meaningless. Even without obvious signs of perforation preoperatively, some cases show perforation when the laparoscope is inserted. In our study, there was one such case. Although there have been reports of drainage catheters put through the umbilicus, we chose to add a suprapubic incision. Even though the suprapubic port was added under direct visualization, bladder injury was discovered upon removal of the catheter. Fluorescent cystoscopy showed only extraperitoneal leakage, so the patient was treated conservatively, and was discharged in good condition 18 days after surgery.
It may be assumed that with the wider fasciotomy of the transumbilical incision, there will be more pain. Indeed, a recent study showed that pain scores measured 24 hours after surgery in patients who had received single port appendectomy were significantly higher than those of the patients who had received conventional laparoscopic appendectomy [17
]. When the fasciotomy is insufficient, vigorous manipulation is needed to place the wound retractor. This may be the cause of the excess pain in single port appendectomy cases. In our study, when TUSPLA was performed, the adequacy of the fasciotomy was tested by inserting the index finger. With a sufficient fasciotomy, insertion of the wound retractor was easy, and manipulation around the umbilicus was minimal. There was no difference in VAS score or umbilical complications between the two groups. Further studies with more cases are needed to conclusively assess this issue.
Several single port systems have been used to introduce laparoscopic instruments into the abdominal cavity. Some authors have reported on the use of pre-manufactured one port systems [18
]. Others have reported on the glove port method [22
]. All of our patients in the TUSPLA group were operated on using the glove port. This approach offered several advantages. First, a wound retractor is the only additional material needed. All the other components are conventional material used in the operating room. Second, as noted earlier, the glove port is cost-effective. Instead of using a disposable trocar, a suction tube can be used. Also, a vinyl specimen retrieval bag is not required. Therefore, a relatively small number of disposable instruments is used, and the total cost of surgery is reduced [22
]. Third, it can prevent subcutaneous emphysema, as well as port-site infection and bleeding, due to the tamponade effect of the two flanges of the wound retractor.
However, when using the glove port, clashing of the surgical instruments may lengthen the operation time. Of course, this is better when roticulating instruments are used. The use of roticulators enable triangulation of the instruments inside the abdominal cavity provides the operator a surgical field similar to that of conventional laparoscopic surgery. Also, adequate positioning of the instruments can reduce clashing. We found that inserting the optic instrument in the middle and inserting the two working instruments laterally at each side of the optic instrument helped reduce the clashing. Using various methods to reduce instrument clashing, the operation time can be reduced so it is comparable to that of conventional laparoscopic surgery. In our study, there was no difference in operation time.
Many patients diagnosed with acute appendicitis at a military hospital choose to be transferred to civilian hospitals, due to lack of trust in the operative facilities. Laparoscopic surgery is one factor that can give patients faith in the medical personnel. Although open appendectomy is still being performed, laparoscopic surgery is widely accepted as a treatment modality for acute appendicitis. When surgery methods are explained to a patient without obvious perforation, it is anticipated that the patient will choose laparoscopic surgery.
In our study, we did not use a selection criteria for choosing the surgical method. Both methods were explained to all patients admitted during the study period, and TUSPLA was performed on all patients who agreed to receiving TUSPLA. 44 of 63 patients chose to receive TLA. Although the feasibility of TUSPLA was explained in detail, since it is relatively unknown to the general population, it may have seemed more dangerous. With further integration of single port surgery, the capability of the surgeon to perform TUSPLA may have the effect of giving trust to the patients, and may reduce transfer rates to civilian hospitals.
In military hospitals, it is more difficult to introduce new operation procedures and materials into the operating room, and only basic laparoscopic equipment are available. Even with these conditions, TUSPLA was easily done using the glove port and conventional laparoscopic instruments. In many cases, the only additional operation material was the wound retractor, and the clinical data were similar to the three ports method. It seems TUSPLA can be started and performed in smaller hospitals with basic laparoscopic surgery equipment. Moreover, the clinical data of the TUSPLA group is comparable to that of other studies describing TUSPLA, with the exception of longer hospital stay. The literatures show an operation time of approximately 40 to 75 minutes, a VAS score of 2 to 3, a postoperative hospital stay of 2 to 3 days, and a complication rate ranging from 0 to 9% [14
]. Unlike civilians, patients admitted at military hospitals are required to return immediately to active military duty immediately after discharge. For this reason admission periods tend to be longer. But, there was no significant difference in hospital stay between the TUSPLA group and the TLA group.
This study has an inherent limitation in that it is a retrospective study, and the two groups were not randomized. Also, both groups mainly consist of relatively young patients with little comorbidities, with only one female subject in the entire study. A randomized study with more cases that better represent the general population is needed for confirmation.
In conclusion, we report a comparison of TUSPLA and TLA in a Korean military hospital. TUSPLA is a safe and feasible procedure with good cosmetic results that can be considered as an alternative for laparoscopic appendectomy. It is possible to perform in a hospital equipped with laparoscopic instruments, with a minimum of additional material.