Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat conditions in the abdominal and pelvic areas. During a laparoscopic procedure, a thin tube with a camera on the end, known as a laparoscope, is inserted through a tiny incision to allow the doctor to closely examine the organs of the area. Surgical instruments can be inserted through additional incisions to treat any identified problems or to retrieve tissue specimens.

Laparoscopy is much less stressful than traditional open surgery, for the patient, both physically and psychologically, and usually involves lower costs and fewer complications. Laparoscopy is often performed as an outpatient procedure.

Reasons for Laparoscopy

This procedure may be performed for a number of reasons, including to:

  • Perform a biopsy
  • Examine and possibly remove any growths, such as cysts, adhesions or tumors
  • Diagnose and treat conditions such as endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy or pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Check for metastasis of cancer
  • Perform a tubal ligation
  • Check for abdominal or pelvic injury
  • Repair a hernia
  • Remove organs such as the uterus, spleen, gallbladder, ovaries or appendix
  • Determine the cause of pelvic pain
  • Determine the cause of infertility

The Laparoscopy Procedure

Laparoscopy is performed under general anesthesia, and usually takes from 30 to 90 minutes. It may take longer to perform if the doctor needs to extract tissue or organs, or to make surgical repairs. A laparoscopic procedure typically involves the following:

  • Creation of several small abdominal incisions
  • Inflation of the belly with gas to make the organs more visible
  • Insertion of the laparoscope to examine the area of concern
  • Possible insertion of other tools to take tissue samples, remove cysts or make repairs
  • Closure of the incision with stitches

Risks of Laparoscopy

Risks from laparoscopic procedures are noticeably less than the possible risks of open surgery., but they do exist. Risks of laparoscopy may include:

  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding from the incisions
  • Damage to an organ or blood vessel
  • Allergic reaction to medications or anesthesia

Recovery from Laparoscopy

Recovery from laparoscopy is much quicker than from traditional surgery. The patient usually returns home the same day, and can resume normal activities within a few days. Patients are generally advised to avoid strenuous activity for about a week and to avoid drinking carbonated beverages for a day or two to prevent gas pains and vomiting. After laparoscopy, the patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms, none of which is serious, and all of which should disappear after a few days.

  • Bloating
  • Bruising around the incision site
  • Pain at the incision site
  • Irritation or pain in the shoulder or diaphragm
  • Crackling sound if the skin near the stitches is rubbed due to gas leakage

More rarely, symptoms may indicate the presence of infection or other complications. The physician should be contacted immediately if the patient develops:

  • An area of redness or swelling around an incision
  • Bleeding or drainage from the stitches
  • Fever
  • Severe belly pain
  • Hoarseness that persists or gets worse

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