What Is Laparoscopy?
Laparoscopy (pronounced “lap-a-ROSS-coe-pee”) is a surgical procedure performed through very small incisions in the abdomen, using specialized instruments. A pencil-thin instrument called a laparoscope is used, and it gives the doctor an exceptionally clear view, on a TV monitor, of the inside of your pelvic or abdominal organs.This type of surgery is called ‘minimally invasive’ because of the very small incisions used.Yet major procedures can now be performed using this technique.
A laparoscope has lenses like a telescope to magnify body structures, a powerful light to illuminate them, and a miniature video camera. The camera sends images of the inside of the body to a TV monitor in the operating room. Specialized surgical instruments can be inserted through the laparoscope, and through small incisions nearby.
Facts About Laparoscopy
Rapid technical advances in miniaturized surgical tools, fiber optics, and video systems enabled new developments in minimally invasive surgery. These methods greatly reduced post-operative complications so that laparoscopy and other types of minimally invasive surgery became widely used by surgeons around the world.
The first live broadcast of a laparoscopy via the Internet took place in 1996. In March 3, 1997, a computer-enhanced robotic system was used on a human for the first time by Dr. J. Himpens to perform some steps of laparoscopic surgery. Read more about it here
Laparoscopy is often done as outpatient surgery. You usually can go home the same day, once you recover from the procedure. More complex procedures, such as laparoscopic hysterectomy, may require an overnight stay in the hospital. Before surgery, you will be given general anesthesia, which blocks the pain and puts you to sleep, or local anesthesia, which numbs the area while you remain awake.
During the procedure, your doctor will insert the laparoscope through a small incision in your navel. He or she will then fill the abdomen with gas (carbon dioxide) to see the pelvic reproductive organs more clearly on the screen. Other incisions may be made in the abdomen to insert surgical instruments, but these incisions are usually no more than half an inch long. Another instrument, called a uterine manipulator, may be inserted through the cervix and into the uterus to move the organs into view.
After the procedure, the instruments are removed and the small incisions are closed with stitches or tape. There will be small scars that fade over time. If you had general anesthesia, you will wake up in the recovery room and feel sleepy for a few hours. You may have some nausea from the anesthesia. You must have someone drive you home.
You may feel tired and have some discomfort for a few days after the procedure. Your incisions may be sore, and the tube put in your throat to help you breathe during the surgery may leave you with a sore throat for a few days. If so, try throat lozenges or gargle with warm salt water. You may feel pain in your shoulders or back caused by the gas used during the procedure. It should go away on its own within a day or two. If it doesn’t, contact your doctor.
Your doctor will let you know when you can resume your normal activities. For minor procedures, it is often one or two days after the surgery. For more complex procedures, it may take longer. You may be told to avoid heavy activity or exercise.
There is less pain with laparoscopic surgery than with open abdominal surgery, which involves larger incisions, longer hospital stays and a longer recovery. The risk of infection is lower and the recovery time is faster. It can be done as outpatient surgery, so you won’t have to spend the night in the hospital. Smaller incisions heal faster and leave smaller scars.
As with any surgery, laparoscopy does carry some risks. The more complex the surgery, the greater the risk. These risks include:
- bleeding or a hernia (a bulge caused by poor healing) at the incision sites
- internal bleeding
- damage to a blood vessel or other organ, such as the stomach, bowel or bladder
- problems caused by anesthesia
In some cases, the surgeon may decide that a laparoscopy cannot be done during the surgery and he or she will create an abdominal incision instead. If this happens, you may need to stay in the hospital for a day or two. Your recovery also will take longer.