Jene Molfino was getting ready to leave on a diving trip to Palau when she found out she had gallstones.
"I was sitting at home, just reading a book and started having really sharp chest pains, it almost felt as if I was having a heart attack," Molfino said.
The pain was so severe; Molfino had to delay her trip to have her gall bladder removed.
Despite the seriousness of the surgery, Molfino's doctors are optimistic she will still make her flight to Palau because of a new laparoscopic surgical technique.
Single-port access procedures promise a much faster healing time than previous techniques.
"We making the incision inside the belly button, so afterward there are no visible scars," Dr. Huy Nguyen said. "In the standard laparoscopy you use four incisions, and you punch it through four holes into abdominal wall. One incision heals faster than four incisions."
In an operating room at Regional Medical Center of San Jose, Nguyen started by inserting a port and a high-resolution camera through Molfino's naval. Within minutes, monitors display clear images. Nguyen used the same port to insert instruments and worked off the images, without the sense of touch.
"You have to figure out what you see, and figure out what you'd feel," Nguyen said.
Molfino's single-port surgery was one of the first performed on the West Coast. Students and colleagues watched as Nguyen sealed the gall bladder with staple-like clips and then pulled it out through the port.
Moments later, the equipment had been removed and Molfino was ready for post-op.
The technique may be new, but because of the shortened recovery time, it could be used for a wide range of procedures.
"Appendix, colon surgeries, for obesity; you can do a lot of things," Nguyen said.
As for Molfino, just as her doctors predicted, she was able to make it to Palau without complications.
While the technique looks promising, more study is needed to determine whether the single-port access procedure results in a faster healing time than traditional laparoscopic surgery.