While you are deep asleep and pain-free under general anesthesia, the doctor makes a half-inch surgical cut in the skin below the belly button. Carbon dioxide gas is pumped into the abdomen to help the doctor see the organs more easily.
The laparoscope, an instrument that looks like a small telescope with a light and a video camera, is inserted so the doctor can view the area.
Other instruments may be inserted through other small cuts in the lower abdomen. While watching a video monitor, the doctor is able to:
Remove scar tissue or other abnormal tissue, such as from endometriosis
Repair or remove part or all of the ovaries or uterine tubes
Repair or remove parts of the uterus
Do other surgical procedures (such as appendectomy, removing lymph nodes)
After the laparoscopy, the carbon dioxide gas is released, and the cuts are closed. .
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Laparoscopy uses a smaller surgical cut than open surgery. This means your hospital stay is likely to be shorter and your recovery faster. There is less blood loss with laparoscopic surgery and less pain after surgery.
Pelvic laparoscopy is used both for diagnosis and treatment. It may be recommended for:
Blood clots in the leg or pelvic veins, which could travel to the lungs and, rarely, be fatal
Damage to nearby organs and tissues
Before the Procedure
Always tell your doctor or nurse:
If you are or could be pregnant
What drugs you are taking, even drugs, herbs, or supplements you bought without a prescription
During the days before surgery:
You may be asked to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), warfarin (Coumadin), and any other drugs that make it hard for your blood to clot.
Ask your doctor or nurse which medicines you can still take on the day of your surgery.
If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your doctor or nurse for help.
Arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery.
On the day of your surgery:
You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight the night before your surgery, or 8 hours before your surgery.
Take the drugs your doctor or nurse told you to take with a small sip of water.
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital or clinic.
After the Procedure
You will spend some time in a recovery area as you wake up from the anesthesia.
Many people are able to go home the same day as the procedure. Sometimes, you may need to stay overnight, depending on what surgery was done using the laparoscope.
The gas pumped into the abdomen may cause abdominal discomfort for 1 - 2 days after the procedure. Some people feel neck and shoulder pain for several days after a laparoscopy because the carbon dioxide gas irritates the diaphragm. As the gas is absorbed, this pain will go away. Lying down can help decrease the pain.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicine or tell you what over-the-counter pain medicines you can take.
You may go back to your normal activities within 1 to 2 days. However, do not lift anything over 10 pounds for 3 weeks after surgery to decrease your risk of getting a hernia in your incisions.
Depending on what procedure is done, you can usually begin sexual activities again as soon as any bleeding has stopped. If you have had a hysterectomy, you need to wait 3 months before having sexual intercourse again. Ask your doctor what is recommended for the procedure you are having.
Gaitán HG, Reveiz L, Farquhar C. Laparoscopy for the management of acute lower abdominal pain in women of childbearing age. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007683.
Jacobson TZ, Duffy JMN,Barlow D, Koninckx PR, Garry R. Laparoscopic surgery for pelvic pain associated with endometriosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2009, Issue 4. Art.No.: CD001300.
Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.