Laparoscopy: Purpose, Preparation, Procedure, and Recovery
Laparoscopy, also known as diagnostic laparoscopy, is a surgical diagnostic procedure used to examine the organs inside the abdomen. It’s a low-risk, minimally invasive procedure that requires only small incisions.
Laparoscopy uses an instrument called a laparoscope to look at the abdominal organs. A laparoscope is a long, thin tube with a high-intensity light and a high-resolution camera at the front. The instrument is inserted through an incision in the abdominal wall. As it moves along, the camera sends images to a video monitor.
Laparoscopy allows your doctor to see inside your body in real time, without open surgery. Your doctor also can obtain biopsy samples during this procedure.
Laparoscopy is often used to identify and diagnose the source of pelvic or abdominal pain. It’s usually performed when noninvasive methods are unable to help with diagnosis.
In many cases, abdominal problems can also be diagnosed with imaging techniques such as:
- ultrasound, which uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the body
- CT scan, which is a series of special X-rays that take cross-sectional images of the body
- MRI scan, which uses magnets and radio waves to produce images of the body
Laparoscopy is performed when these tests don’t provide enough information or insight for a diagnosis. The procedure may also be used to take a biopsy, or sample of tissue, from a particular organ in the abdomen.
Your doctor may recommend laparoscopy to examine the following organs:
- small intestine and large intestine (colon)
- pelvic or reproductive organs
By observing these areas with a laparoscope, your doctor can detect:
- an abdominal mass or tumor
- fluid in the abdominal cavity
- liver disease
- the effectiveness of certain treatments
- the degree to which a particular cancer has progressed
As well, your doctor may be able to perform an intervention to treat your condition immediately after diagnosis.
The most common risks associated with laparoscopy are bleeding, infection, and damage to organs in your abdomen. However, these are rare occurrences.
After your procedure, it’s important to watch for any signs of infection. Contact your doctor if you experience:
- fevers or chills
- abdominal pain that becomes more intense over time
- redness, swelling, bleeding, or drainage at the incision sites
- continuous nausea or vomiting
- persistent cough
- shortness of breath
- inability to urinate
There is a small risk of damage to the organs being examined during laparoscopy. Blood and other fluids may leak out into your body if an organ is punctured. In this case, you’ll need other surgery to repair the damage.
Less common risks include:
- complications from general anesthesia
- inflammation of the abdominal wall
- a blood clot, which could travel to your pelvis, legs, or lungs
In some circumstances, your surgeon may believe the risk of diagnostic laparoscopy is too high to warrant the benefits of using a minimally invasive technique. This situation often occurs for those who’ve had prior abdominal surgeries, which increases the risk of forming adhesions between structures in the abdomen. Performing laparoscopy in the presence of adhesions will take much longer and increases the risk of injuring organs.