Diseases & Conditions

Bandaid Surgery - Laparoscopy in the Female

Overview & Description

A laparoscopy is any surgical procedure that uses a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a thin tube attached to a light source that is inserted through a small incision in the belly button. With it, a doctor can see the pelvic and abdominal organs.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

The goal of laparoscopy is to find the cause of a problem without making a big cut or incision in the upper or lower abdomen. If a pelvic or abdominal ultrasound has shown something abnormal, laparoscopy is often used to confirm the findings. A woman may need a laparoscopy for many reasons. Some symptoms that may lead to the procedure include:

  • chronic pelvic pain that a doctor suspects is from a pelvic infection; endometriosis, which is a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus, resulting in pain and/or infertility; or ovarian cysts
  • infertility, which causes a woman to have a hard time getting pregnant
  • A doctor may also use laparoscopy to remove these organs or growths:

  • hernia
  • gallbladder
  • appendix
  • small fibroids, which are benign or non-cancerous tumors of the uterus
  • A doctor may use this procedure to diagnose, evaluate, or treat these conditions:

  • a hole, tear, or puncture in the uterus that occurred after a dilatation and curettage. This is a procedure in which the inside lining of the uterus is scraped with a special instrument.
  • a hole, tear, or puncture in the uterus from hysteroscopy, which is a procedure where a thin tube with a light source is inserted through the vagina in order to see inside the uterus
  • a hole, tear, or puncture in the uterus from placement of a birth control device called an IUD
  • endometriosis, which is the growth of uterine tissue outside of the uterus
  • small growths in the ovaries called cysts
  • unruptured ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a baby implants and grows outside the uterus
  • the presence of fluid in the abdomen, which could be due to blood, ascites, or cancer cells
  • a pelvic mass
  • an unexplained abnormal liver scan
  • A doctor may also use this procedure for these reasons:

  • to follow-up after surgery for ovarian cancer
  • to aid in a sterilization procedure called tubal ligation, which keeps the woman from becoming pregnant
  • to treat scar tissue, called adhesions, in the pelvic area
  • How is the procedure performed?

    First, the woman receives general anesthesia. This relaxes the abdominal muscles, leads to a deep sleep, and prevents the sensation of pain. Then, the doctor makes a small cut below her belly button. The doctor puts the laparoscope through this cut. Then, the doctor inflates the abdominal cavity with 2 to 5 liters of carbon dioxide gas. This helps the doctor see the organs in the region. Next, the doctor makes one to three smaller cuts on the lower abdomen. These are used for instruments that might be needed to hold an organ, to take a biopsy sample, or to apply a laser to any lesions.

    The doctor also uses the laparoscope to see the following parts of the body:

  • uterus
  • fallopian tubes
  • ovaries
  • bladder
  • intestines
  • liver
  • spleen
  • appendix
  • surfaces of the abdominal cavities themselves
  • After the doctor has viewed or removed what is needed, the cuts are closed with stitches. These may heal by themselves or may need to be removed in the doctor's office a week later. The procedure usually takes about an hour. The woman stays in a recovery room for one to three hours while anesthesia wears off. Sometimes, the woman may need to stay overnight in the hospital if she has trouble waking up or if there are any complications.

    Preparation & Expectations

    What happens right after the procedure?

    The doctor will discuss the findings and treatment options after the procedure.

    Home Care and Complications

    What happens later at home?

    For a few hours after the surgery, the woman may feel sleepy or groggy. She should not drive or use heavy machinery for 24 hours. The most common complaints after laparoscopy include:

  • shoulder pain, caused from gas that has built up under the diaphragm
  • feeling bloated
  • pain at the incision sites
  • cramping
  • constipation
  • These symptoms usually improve within 24 to 48 hours after surgery.

    What are the potential complications after the procedure?

    Because sharp instruments are used during surgery, trauma may occur to any organ within the abdomen. Other complications include:

  • problems related to the anesthesia, which include reactions to medicines and having trouble breathing
  • a bloody swelling, called a hematoma, around the cut
  • infection of the cut
  • puncture of the aorta, which is the main artery of the heart
  • bleeding in the abdomen

  • Attribution

    Author:Eva Martin, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:10/16/02
    Reviewer:Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed:10/16/02