Laparotomy, Exploratory, Discharge Information

What is an exploratory laparotomy?

An exploratory laparotomy is a procedure which allows your healthcare to look at the organs and tissues inside your belly or pelvis (the area below your belly and between your hips). These organs include the liver, intestines, gallbladder, appendix and, in women, the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.

A laparotomy may help your provider find and treat the cause of medical problems you may be having, such as:

  • Pain, an abnormal lump, or fluid in your belly
  • Appendicitis
  • Liver disease
  • Bowel problems
  • Gallstones
  • Uterine or ovarian problems

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on what your provider found and what additional treatments you may have had during the procedure.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you are to take each time, how often you are to take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicine or other therapy to:
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent an infection
    • Prevent side effects, such as nausea or constipation, from other treatments
    • Soften your bowel movement
  • To care for your surgical wound:
    • Keep your surgical wound clean.
    • If you are told to change your dressing, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.
  • Find people to help you with your day-to-day duties while you are healing.
  • Do not do any heavy lifting or otherwise strain the stomach muscles for 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for all routine testing you may need.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or fears you have.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
    • The area around the wound is more red or painful
    • The wound area is very warm to touch
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
    • You have chills or muscle aches
  • Blood in your vomit
  • Blood in your bowel movement
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-12
Last reviewed: 2015-01-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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