What is a laparoscopy?

A laparoscopy is a procedure used to check the organs in the abdomen and can also check a woman's pelvic organs.

Laparoscopic surgery may be used to take a small tissue sample for testing and can be used to remove organs such as the appendix or the gallbladder.

Why would a laparoscopy need to be performed?

An abdominal laparoscopy can be done to check the abdomen and its organs for:

  • Tumors and other growths
  • Injuries
  • Bleeding inside the abdomen
  • Infections
  • Abdomen pains that cannot be explained
  • Blockages
  • Other conditions

For women, a gynecologic laparoscopy may be used to check:

  • Pelvic pain and problems
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Fibroids
  • The fallopian tubes

A laparoscopy can also be used to treat endometriosis; this is when tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside it. Laparoscopies may be done to treat an ectopic pregnancy or to do a tubal ligation (tie the fallopian tubes) to permanently prevent pregnancy.

Benefits of laparoscopy

  • Laparoscopies are minimally invasive which means a very small cut is made in your abdomen
  • A laparoscopy usually takes less time and has a faster recovery than open surgery

Sometimes a laparoscopy is not advised; this may be the case if you:

  • Have advanced cancerous growths on your abdominal wall
  • Have chronic tuberculosis
  • Have a bleeding problem such as log blood platelet count
  • Have a lot of scar tissue from other surgeries
  • Are taking blood-thinning medicine

Risks of laparoscopy

Possible complications may include

  • Bleeding from the incision,
  • Injury to the organs in the abdomen
  • Carbon dioxide gas entering places other than the abdomen

There may be other risks depending on your medical condition; be sure to talk about any concerns with your provider before the procedure.

Certain conditions may stop a laparoscopy from working well; this includes being obese or having bleeding in your abdomen.

What to expect

A laparoscopy uses a thin lighted tube that has a video camera; the tube is called a laparoscope. It is put into a tiny cut or incision in your abdomen, and the images from the video camera can be seen on a computer screen.

A laparoscopy may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital; the way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your physician’s practices.

A laparoscopy is generally done while you are asleep under general anesthesia; your physician will choose the type base on the procedure and your overall health.

  • Before a laparoscopy
    • Your physician will explain the procedure to you; ask him or her any questions you have.
    • You may be asked to sign a consent form that gives permission for the procedure; read the form carefully, and ask questions if anything is not clear.
    • Your physician will ask questions about your past health; he or she may also perform a physical exam. This is to make sure you are in good health before the procedure.
      • You may need blood tests and other diagnostic tests as well.
      • You must not eat or drink for eight hours before the procedure; this often means no food or drink after midnight.
      • Tell your provider if you are sensitive to or allergic to any medicines, latex, tape and anesthesia medicines (local and general).
      • Tell your physician about all the medicines you take including over-the-counter and prescription medicines, vitamins, herbs and other supplements.
      • Tell your physician if you have a history of bleeding disorders, and if you are taking any blood-thinning medicines, aspirin, ibuprofen or other medicine that affect blood clotting; you may need to stop taking these before the procedure.
      • Tell your physician if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
      • You will need to remove any piercing jewelry near your belly button.
    • Depending on the surgery, you may be asked to take an oral laxative to cleanse your bowel before the surgery, or you may have a solution put into your rectum and lower intestine a few hours before the procedure.
      • You may also be given an antibiotic.
    • You may be given a sedative before the procedure depending on the type of laparoscopy being done.
      • If this is an outpatient procedure, you must have someone drive you home.

    Your physician may have other instructions for you based on your medical condition.

  • During a laparoscopy

    Generally, a laparoscopy follows this process:

    • You’ll be asked to take off any jewelry or other objects that may interfere with the procedure.
    • You’ll be asked to remove clothing and be given a gown to wear.
    • An IV will be inserted into your arm or hand.
    • A urinary catheter may be placed into your bladder to collect urine.
    • You’ll be placed on your back on the operating table.
    • The anesthesiologist will check your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and blood oxygen level during the surgery.
    • If there is too much hair at the surgical site, it may be clipped off.
    • The skin over the surgical site will be cleaned with a sterile solution.
    • If general anesthesia is not used, a local anesthetic may be injected into the incision site; this will numb the area. You’ll feel a needle stick and a brief sting.
    • A small incision will be made in your abdomen just below the belly button.
    • More small incisions may be made so that other surgical tools can be used during the procedure.
    • Carbon dioxide gas will be put into your abdomen so it swells up; this makes it easier to see organs and other structures.
    • If general anesthesia is not used, you may feel some mild pain in your abdomen and the top of your shoulder; this may happen as the carbon dioxide is injected and surgical tools are moved around.
    • The laparoscope will be put in and the procedure will take place.
    • Once the laparoscopy and any other procedures are done, the laparoscopy and other surgical tools will be taken out.
    • The incisions will be closed with stitches, tape or surgical staples.
    • A sterile bandage or dressing or adhesive string will be applied.
  • After a laparoscopy

    After the procedure, you’ll be taken to the recovery room; your recovery process will vary depending on the type of anesthesia you had. You will be monitored closely. Once your blood pressure, pulse and breathing are stable and you are alert, you’ll be taken to your hospital room, or you may be sent home if this was an outpatient procedure.

    When you are home, you must keep the incision clean and dry. Your physician will give you instructions on how to bathe. Any stitches or surgical staples will be taken out at a follow-up visit. If adhesive strings were used, they should be kept dry and will often fall off in a few days.

    You may feel pain from the carbon dioxide gas still in your abdomen; this pain may last for a few days and may be felt in your shoulders. It should feel a bit better each day. You may take pain medicine as directed by your physician; aspirin or other pain medicines may raise your rise of bleeding. Only take medicines that your physician has approved.

    Do not drink any carbonated liquids for one or two days after the procedure; you may slowly move on to more solid foods as directed. Tell your physician if you have nausea or if you vomit.

    You may be told to limit your physical activity for a few days.

    Call your physician if experience any of the following:

    • Fever or chills
    • Redness, swelling or bleeding or other drainage from the incision site
    • More pain around the incision site
    • Vomiting
    • Trouble urinating