It's hard to believe but neurosurgeons at the Ottawa Hospital are able to use minimally invasive surgery to remove brain tumors through a patient's nostrils.

From hip replacement to heart surgery, minimally invasive or "keyhole" surgery is changing complicated medical procedures for both surgeons and their patients.  Today, CTV’s Joanne Schnurr had the opportunity to don a gown and be a mock surgical student at the Ottawa Simulation and Skills Centre where doctors are learning how to save lives.

Imagine threading a needle wearing a pair of hockey gloves.

Her two medical guides are young but already old hands at laparoscopic surgery. Third year residents  Nada Gawad and Alexandre Tran use the laparoscopic tools and help train others how to use them as well. 

They started me with something simple: transferring from one peg to another.

Then, on to some fruit, specifically grapes.

“We use the grapes,” explains Dr. Gawad, “to look at the surgical planes and have an idea what plane of tissue we are on when we operate.”

It is like peeling a grape with a pair of foot-long tweezers. I manage to rip a few pieces of grape skin off but Dr. Gawad comes out with a grape completely free of its skin.

We move on to the gall bladder dissection station, which is a two man operation.  The precision and finesse needed here is amazing.

“Every surgical resident will come through this Skills and Simulation Centre, spending about 8 hours a month here throughout their 5 years of residency.  In addition, residents from other specialties and nursing staff will learn in this environment.

Laparoscopic or keyhole surgery is increasingly being used in a variety of complex cases, for hysterectomies, heart valve replacement, even removing brain tumors.

Sometimes the surgeon is nowhere near the patient, manipulating the medical instruments with the help of robotic arms.

“Minimally invasive surgery is probably a term that will be used for only a couple more decades,” says Dr. Glenn Posner, a gynecologist and the Medical Centre of the Ottawa Skills and Simulation Centre, “because eventually all surgery will be minimally invasive surgery.”

And that is the focus of the $10 milllon dollar Centre, training the doctors of today, like Gawad and Tran, for the surgeries of tomorrow.

“Every once in while sometimes we 'll get a grandparent who comes in,” says third-year resident Dr. Alexandre Tran, “and they will show us their stem to stern scar and it's shocking when we tell them new surgery is a couple of keyhole incisions and they are quite impressed and relieved.”

These surgeries are a game changer.  With traditional surgery, patients could spend a week recovering in the hospital.  With keyhole surgery, they sometimes go home the same day. The Ottawa Hospital performs about one thousand minimally invasive surgeries every three months.