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What is Laparoscopy?

Laparoscopy is a type of surgery in which the doctor gets access to the inside of the abdominal and pelvic region with an instrument called laparoscope, which is a small tube with a light source and a camera. It is also referred to as minimally invasive surgery or keyhole surgery as it does not require a large incision. The laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision, and the camera relays images of the inside of abdomen and pelvis on a monitor. Laparoscopy has several advantages over the traditional surgical procedure, e.g., less pain and bleeding post-surgery, reduced scarring and a shorter stay in hospital.

  1. Why is Laparoscopy performed?
  2. How do you prepare for Laparoscopy?
  3. How is Laparoscopy performed?
  4. What do Laparoscopy results mean?

Laparoscopy is useful in confirming the diagnosis made by other methods like ultrasound scan, computed tomography scan and magnetic resonance imaging scan. It is recommended for the diagnosis of several conditions of abdominal and pelvic region. The most common use of laparoscopy is to study and treat diseases of the digestive system, urinary system and female reproductive system. It is commonly employed in the following cases:

  • Collection of a small tissue sample for laboratory testing
  • Removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries
  • Removal of a part of the intestine
  • Identifying the cause of abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Assessing infertility in women
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Repairing  stomach ulcers
  • Repairing hernias
  • Treatment of gallstones

Fasting is recommended for about 6 to 12 hours before this procedure. The exact time of fasting will vary based on the condition for which laparoscopy is being performed.

Inform the doctor about any medications that you are on. It is recommended to stop taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin or aspirin a few days before the surgery. Individuals with smoking habits are advised to avoid smoking for a few days before the test as it interferes with the healing process after the surgery and also increases the risks of complications such as infections.

Laparoscopy is typically performed under general anaesthesia, which makes it a pain-free procedure as the individual is unconscious when the procedure is performed. The laparoscope and surgical tools are inserted into the abdomen through a small incision and gas is pumped in with a small tube as the inflated abdomen gives a better view of internal organs. After the procedure, the gas and instruments are removed from the abdomen and incisions are stitched.

Some minor complications that an individual may face after laparoscopy include infection, vomiting, uneasiness, and minor bleeding and bruising around the incision. These complications are experienced by 1%-2% of the individuals undergoing this procedure. Some major and severe complications of this procedure include organ damage, which may cause organ failure, gas bubbles getting trapped in major arteries and veins, allergy to general anaesthesia, damage to a  major artery, and blood clot formation in a vein. These serious complications occur only in 0.1% of the cases, and another surgery may be required to manage them.

Recovery time is different for each individual and depends on the type of laparoscopy (diagnostic or therapeutic), general health of the individual and complications during and after a laparoscopic procedure.

Laparoscopy test may indicate the presence or absence of certain conditions such as:

  • Presence of cysts in ovaries
  • Fibroids, which are growths inside uterine  walls and can be benign or malignant
  • Pelvic floor disorders, e.g., pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence
  • A condition called ectopic pregnancy in which the fertilised egg is implanted outside the uterus, usually in fallopian tube
  • Female infertility
  • An undescended testicle, indicated by the absence of one or both the testicles in the scrotum
  • Endometriosis, in which, tiny pieces of the lining of  uterus (endometrium) are found outside the uterus
  • Swelling in appendix
  • Certain types of cancer, e.g., cancer of pancreas, ovaries, liver or bile duct and gall bladder

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.  

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References

  1. Health direct [internet]: Department of Health: Australian government; Laparoscopy
  2. National Institute of Health. US National Library of Medicine [internet]: Bethesda (MA), US. US Department of Health and Human Services Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery)
  3. National Institute of Health. US National Library of Medicine [internet]: Bethesda (MA), US. US Department of Health and Human Services When it's used - Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery)
  4. Health direct [internet]: Department of Health: Australian government; Ectopic pregnancy
  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women's Health Care Physicians [internet], Washington, DC; Laparoscopy
  6. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Laparoscopy
  7. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Laparoscopy