Background: Immune suppression is an established consequence of surgical stress and trauma. Postoperative changes in the systemic immune system are proportional to the degree of surgical trauma and subsequent immune suppression may be implicated in the development of infectious complications and tumor metastasis formation. Laparoscopic surgery reduces the magnitude of the operative trauma and is thought to preserve postoperative immunological defenses.
Methods: Relevant literature concerning postoperative immune functions and laparoscopic surgery was reviewed and clinical implications are discussed.
Results: The influence of laparoscopic surgery on the postoperative systemic immune response is significantly less after laparoscopic cholecystectomy than with the conventional approach. Few immunological data are available concerning more advanced laparoscopic procedures. Various animal model studies of postoperative septic complications and tumor growth show that the postoperative preservation of the systemic immune response after laparoscopic surgery can have enormous clinical advantages.
Conclusion: Laparoscopic surgery preserves the postoperative immunological defenses. In the future, this may imply a lower number of infections, less local recurrence and even fewer distant metastases. Prospective randomized studies are necessary to see whether these suspected advantages can be demonstrated in clinical practice.