A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure to look inside the belly or pelvis. A lighted tube with a camera on one end is used to look at the organs in your belly. This tool is called a laparoscope. Your provider puts it into the belly through a small cut near your belly button. The scope helps your provider see your organs on a TV monitor.
This procedure can help your healthcare provider make a more accurate diagnosis. Then your provider can suggest further treatment. Some problems may be treated surgically during this procedure.
The time needed to recover from a laparoscopy is shorter than if you have open abdominal surgery. You will also have smaller incisions.
When is it used?
This procedure may be done when you have fluid inside your belly that should not be there. This procedure may help your healthcare provider find the cause and determine the best treatment.
Instead of this procedure, other procedures may include:
Open abdominal surgery, which uses a larger cut in the belly to look at organs inside your abdomen or pelvis
Ultrasound scan, which passes sound waves and their echoes through your body from a small device that is held against your skin to create pictures of organs inside your belly
CT scan, which is a series of X-rays taken from different angles and arranged by a computer to show thin cross sections of parts of the body
Removal of some of the fluid with a needle inserted into your belly for lab tests
Ask your healthcare provider about your choices for treatment and the risks.
How do I prepare for this procedure?
Make plans for your care and recovery after you have the procedure. Find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure. Allow for time to rest and try to find other people to help with your day-to-day tasks while you recover.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers may have more breathing problems during the procedure and heal more slowly. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery.
You may or may not need to take your regular medicines the day of the procedure. Some medicines (like aspirin) may increase your risk of bleeding during or after the procedure. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that you take. Ask your provider if you need to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the procedure.
Your provider will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before the procedure. This helps to keep you from vomiting during the procedure.
Follow any other instructions your healthcare provider gives you.
Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.
What happens during the procedure?
You will be given regional or general anesthesia to keep you from feeling pain during the procedure. Regional anesthesia numbs part of your body while you stay awake. General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep.
Your provider will make a small cut near your bellybutton. Your abdominal cavity will be inflated with carbon dioxide gas. This gives your healthcare provider more space to work in and a better view of the organs inside your belly.
Your provider will put a laparoscope through the cut. Your provider may put other tools through other small cuts in your belly. The laparoscope is used to look at the abdominal organs and tissues and to guide other tools.
Your provider may remove a sample of abdominal fluid and send it to the lab for tests. If your provider finds a growth that should not be there, he or she may take a sample of the growth (biopsy). Tissue that is removed will be sent to the lab to be examined under a microscope. If a growth is found, your provider may need to make a larger incision (open abdominal surgery).
At the end of the procedure your provider will release most of the gas through the laparoscope, remove the scope and any other tools, and sew up the cuts.
The procedure will last about 30 minutes unless something is found that requires open abdominal surgery or a more complicated laparoscopic procedure.
What happens after the procedure?
You may stay in the hospital for a few hours or overnight to recover, depending on what was done during the procedure. The anesthetic may cause sleepiness or grogginess for a while.
You may go home with a catheter, which is a small tube used to drain urine from your bladder. Your healthcare provider will decide when the catheter can be removed during a follow-up visit.
You may have some pain after the procedure. Your provider will give you instructions on how to treat any pain.
You may feel bloated or have constipation for a few days. Eating fruits and vegetables and drinking extra fluids may help you avoid constipation. If diet and extra fluids are not enough to avoid constipation, then your provider may recommend a stool softener or a laxative. Check with your provider if constipation is still problem.
Ask your healthcare provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.
What are the risks of this procedure?
Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:
You may have problems with anesthesia.
You may have infection or bleeding
Other parts of your body may be injured during the procedure.
Ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.
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Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2013-09-18 Last reviewed: 2013-09-18
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.