Laparoscopic surgery is a procedure that is used to examine the inside of the abdomen, without a large incision having to be made. The procedure is commonly used to diagnose and treat conditions of the abdomen and pelvis and is a useful tool in the fields of gynecology, gastroenterology and urology.
Laparoscopy is also known of as minimally invasive or keyhole surgery. The surgeon uses an instrument called a laparoscope, which is a thin tube with a light and camera attached, to look inside the abdomen. This laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision of 0.5 to 1.5 cm in length and further small incisions are then made if necessary to target the site of interest.
This procedure is preferred over traditional, open surgery which requires a large incision to open up the abdomen and expose the structures inside. Compared with open surgery, laparoscopic surgery is associated with a significantly shorter recovery time and hospital stay, less bleeding and pain, and less scarring after surgery.
Preparation before surgery
This surgery is usually performed under general anesthetic so the patient is unconscious throughout the procedure. Patients can often be discharged from hospital on the same day as surgery.
Patients are asked not to eat or drink anything (not even water) for 6 to 12 hours before surgery begins. People on blood thinners are advised to stop using these medications for at least a few days before the surgery in order to prevent excess intra-operative bleeding.
Prior to surgery, the abdomen is cleansed and made aseptic. A surgeon makes one initial incision of around 0.5 to 1.5 cm in the belly button area. A tube is inserted through this incision, which allows carbon dioxide gas to be pumped into the abdomen to inflate it. This is called insufflation and allows better visualization of the abdomen’s contents.
Next, a laparoscope is inserted through the incision and images are relayed to the TV monitor to guide further decisions about how to progress and which surgical instruments are required. If required, more incisions are made to insert instruments and perform the surgery. Once the procedure is complete, the carbon dioxide is let out of the abdomen and the incisions are closed using stitches or clips.
Once the patient is awakened from anesthesia, they may feel drowsy and disorientated. In most cases, hospital discharge is possible on the same day or the next day. However, someone may need to drive the patient home. Patients usually recover within two weeks of surgery.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc