What happens during laparoscopy?Laparoscopy is usually performed under general anesthesia; however it can be performed with other types of anesthesia that permit the patient to remain awake.
The typical pelvic laparoscopy involves a small (1/2" to 3/4") incision in the belly button or lower abdomen. The abdominal cavity is filled with carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide causes the abdomen to swell, which lifts the abdominal wall away from the internal organs. That way, the doctor has more room to work.
Next, a laparoscope (a one-half inch fiber-optic rod with a light source and video camera) is inserted through the belly button. The video camera permits the surgeon to see inside the abdominal area on video monitors located in the operating room.
Depending on the reason for the laparoscopy, the physician may perform surgery through the laparoscope by inserting various instruments into the laparoscope while using the video monitor as a guide. The video camera also allows the surgeon to take pictures of any problem areas he discovers.
In some cases, the physician may discover that he is unable to accomplish the goal of surgery through the laparoscope and a full abdominal incision will be made. However, if this is a possibility in your case, your physician will discuss this with you prior to surgery, and the surgical consent form will include this possibility.
Is there any risk associated with laparoscopy?Certain women face an increased risk with any surgical procedure including women who smoke, are overweight, who have pulmonary diseases or cardiovascular diseases, as well as women in the late stages of pregnancy or who use certain drugs. If you think you may fall into any of these categories, be sure to discuss your surgical risks with your physician. Although rare, perforation of the bowel or liver are possible complications that may occur during laparoscopy.
What is the recovery period following laparoscopy?Laparoscopy results in relatively little pain, and a quick recovery for most patients. Patients sometimes experience aches in the shoulders or chest following laparoscopy--this is from the carbon dioxide that was used to fill the abdominal cavity. Although prescription pain killers are often ordered, Tylenol or Advil is usually sufficient for pain relief after this procedure.
Often patients have the procedure on a Friday and are able to return to light work by Monday. Barring complications, most patients are fully recovered and ready to return to full activity one week after laparoscopy.
When should you call the doctor?When you leave the hospital, you will receive personalized instructions about when to call the doctor. Generally, you should call the doctor if you experience fever above 100 F, excessive pain (not controlled by pain killers), swelling or discharge from the wound.
If your doctor has ordered a laparoscopy for you, be sure that you fully understand the reason he is recommending this procedure and how you can expect to benefit. Always ask questions before agreeing to any surgical procedure.
ACOG Education Pamphlet AP061 - Laparoscopy. Accessed: 07/05/09.