Top trends in surgical innovation

headshot of Jennifer Westendorf
Jennifer Westendorf, MSN, RN, CNOR

Jennifer Westendorf shares her key takeaways from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) annual meeting in October 2019.

I attended the ACS meeting to learn more about the latest trends in the surgical space that could impact members and their patients. Here are the key takeaways from the conference.

Treatment for rib injuries

My primary focus at the ACS meeting was to attend a session on rib fixation. It is a category that the Surgery Advisory Board was beginning to review, and literature on the topic had indicated a growing trend in these procedures. The procedure is helpful for patients who are unable to be removed from a ventilator due to rib injuries or who are experiencing chronic pain due to a previous rib fracture in which the rib bones did not heal properly. Rib fixation is used to restore normal chest wall structure. The benefits of rib fixation include a shorter stay in the hospital, less time on the ventilator, pain relief and increased quality of life.

Minimally invasive endocrine surgery

I also attended a session on transoral endocrine surgery (TES) for thyroid or parathyroid surgery, a relatively new technique that eliminates any visible neck scar for the patient. Though the procedure costs more and generally takes longer compared to an open procedure, the scar-free result is psychologically beneficial to the patient. Future developments in this technique could include the use of a robot. TES is in its infancy in the U.S. but is well established elsewhere, especially in Asia. Clinical evidence is increasing around the world, and so far, it’s encouraging, but more research is needed.

Integrative medicine

In a panel session on integrative medicine, the speakers discussed two areas of particular interest for those in the surgical environment: patients’ pre-operative use of cannabis and the use of integrative therapies for post-op pain.

  • As more states legalize the use of cannabis, it’s important for clinicians to ask their patients if they have used cannabis or any other herb pre-operatively and to know the route of administration. The speaker noted that 70% of patients won’t disclose to their doctors what herbs they’re taking. Some herbs can impact clotting and some surgical patients who use cannabis may need more anesthesia.
  • Some herbs can be used for post-op symptom management, such as ginger for post-op nausea and vomiting. Other integrative therapies, such as acupuncture, guided imagery, massage and breathing techniques, can be used alongside pharmacological management of pain. The speaker shared that she teaches all of her patients the 4-7-8 breathing technique, as it short-circuits the flight or fight response.

As technology is ever-evolving in the surgical space, HealthTrust is committed to staying informed of these clinical advancements. We attend meetings to help us stay in touch with clinical practice changes so we can share our knowledge and assist our members.

Jennifer Westendorf, MSN, RN, CNOR, is the Director of Surgical Services, Clinical Operations at HealthTrust. For more information, email her at

Share This Article:

Share Email
, , ,