Introduction: As urologists head into the new millennium, it has become clear that laparoscopy will play a significant role in successful urologic practice. Issues that are addressed in this article include: (1) What are the new limits? (2) Technological advances. (3) Adequate training. (4) How to technically simplify the laparoscopic procedures?
Materials and methods: To answer the stated questions a review of the literature has been undertaken together with interviews of the leading experts and laparoscopic working groups in urologic laparoscopy. The gathered information has been summarized and focussed with the aim of presenting the perspectives of laparoscopy in urology.
Results and discussion: Standardized indications for laparoscopic urological surgery are benign nephrectomy, nephroureterectomy, cryptorchidism, adrenalectomy, renal cysts, lymphocele and bilateral or relapsing varicocele. Future indications might include living donor nephrectomy, partial nephrectomy and cyst decortication for adult polycystic kidney disease. Controversy exists about the laparoscopic treatment of malignancies in the urinary tract. Whereas pelvic lymph node dissection--even if performed with decreasing frequency--is accepted worldwide, retroperitoneal lymphadenectomy for low-stage testis cancer is currently performed only at few centers. The recent breakthrough in uro-oncological laparoscopic surgery has been laparoscopic radical prostatectomy changing our views on the limits of laparoscopic urology. Endoscopic suturing devices (i.e. Endostitch) are further being developed, and a prototype reapproximating micro-clips (VCS stapler) has been used to perform a uretero-ureterostomy laparoscopically in a porcine model. Nevertheless, the ability of endoscopic suturing using the standard equipment has still to be considered as a "conditio sine qua non". Improvements for tissue division and dissection include an electrosurgical snare to perform a partial nephrectomy, the development of a pneumodissector and hydrodissector. Robotics, including the AESOP 3000 and ZEUS represent a glimpse of the future. By positioning the optique in a voice-controlled full range motion mechanic arm, the image on the screen is very steady and the ergonomics of the surgeons is increased significantly. The da Vinci-System, however, is the first system that has translated all visions of telepresence surgery into clinical reality, recently also for laparoscopic radical prostatectomy.
Conclusions: The future of laparoscopic urology is a two-tiered approach. On the first tier, the advancement of complex reconstructive and ablative surgery such as laparoscopic prostatectomy or, laparoscopic retroperitoneal node dissection, will be undertaken by referral centers of expertise. It is from these individuals that we will look to in order to separate what is feasible and what is reasonable. The second tier will be focusing on simplifying the procedure for the average urologist. As such, developments such as the pneumodissector, hydrodissection, and hand assistance will bring exstirpative laparoscopy into the realm of more urologists. What is critical is that the urologic community supports both groups of laparoscopists.