Mr Paraskeva removing a gall bladder using the technique
A London surgeon is pioneering virtually scarless surgery to remove organs through the belly button.
Mr Barry Paraskeva was the first surgeon in the UK to remove an appendix and gall bladder through the navel, using laparoscopic "key-hole" surgery.
Traditionally, these organs have been removed by making three incisions in the torso as well as the belly button - a process which leaves scars.
Mr Paraskeva is based at Imperial College London Healthcare NHS Trust.
The technique, known as single incision laparoscopic surgery (SILS), requires only a 10mm incision into the belly button (navel) to insert a "single access port" through which instruments and a small camera can be fed.
The organ is then pulled out using the instruments and the belly button is stitched up afterwards, leaving only the tiniest trace of a scar.
Using the technique, Mr Paraskeva can now remove an appendix in 20 minutes and gall bladders within an hour.
The surgery leaves virtually no sign of a scar
In both cases, the patient returns home on the same day as surgery.
Additionally, the surgery provides a chance for patients who do not like their out-facing navel to have it tucked inside.
Mr Paraskeva said: "This technique further minimises minimally invasive surgery.
"Having a single access port minimises the discomfort to the patient, reduces the risk of infection and because the incision is through the belly button, the surgery is scarless."
The SILS technique was developed as a result of research undertaken by Mr Paraskeva and colleagues at Imperial.
Mr Geoffrey Glazer, a consultant general surgeon based at London's Wellington Hospital, said: "This is a technological step forward which might appeal to certain groups who do not want two to three small scars on their abdomen.
"It might also help with the healing process."
Mr Glazer said similar techniques were being developed to remove organs from the body's natural orifices, such as the rectum.
However, removing organs through the navel carried less of a potential risk of contamination.