Laparoscopy procedure explained

What Is Laparoscopy?

Laparoscopy, also called diagnostic laparoscopy, is a surgical method performed for examining the organs in the abdomen. It is a minimally invasive, low-risk procedure wherein just small incisions are done.

In laparoscopy, a device called laparoscope is used to examine the abdominal organs of your body. A laparoscope is a thin and long tube having high-intensity lighting, besides a camera of high resolution on its front.  The device is placed in the abdominal wall by making a small incision. As the device is moved along, the camera clicks the images of the internal organs and transfers them on to a computer screen, also known as a ‘monitor’.

With the help of the laparoscopy, your doctor is able to examine the internal body organs in real time that could have been otherwise possible only with the open surgery. Your doctor may even take a biopsy sample of with this procedure.

Why Laparoscopy is done?

Laparoscopy is frequently performed for identifying and diagnosing the root cause of pain in the abdomen or the pelvic region. It is generally carried out when other, non-invasive procedures have not been helpful with the diagnosis.

In several cases of abdominal problems, the diagnosis is also done with other imaging procedures, like:

In this procedure, the sound waves having high-frequency sound are used for creating images of the body organs.

  • CT scan

The CT scan is the method wherein cross-sectional pictures of the body organs are clicked in a series with the help of special X-Rays.

  • MRI

In MRI, radio waves and magnets used for producing pictures of the body organs.

Laparoscopy is carried out in case the aforementioned tests fail to provide sufficient information and insight of the diagnosis. This procedure can also be used for taking a biopsy/tissue sample of a specific organ in your abdomen.

Your treating doctor may suggest you to undergo laparoscopy for examining the following abdominal organs:

By scrutinizing these organs with the help of a laparoscope, your treating doctor may identify:

  • Any kind of liver diseases
  • Accumulated mass in your abdomen or the presence of a tumor
  • Presence of fluid in your abdominal cavity
  • Usefulness of treatments
  • The extent and progression of a particular cancer

Laparoscopy Risks?

Developing an infection and bleeding are the two most common threats linked with laparoscopy. But then, these happen rarely.

After going through the procedure, it is of utmost importance to keep a watch on any kind of infection signs. Consulting your doctor is advised, if you happen to experience:

  • Swelling, Bleeding, Drainage, or Redness on or around the incision places
  • If your stomach pain becomes severe
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Consistent vomiting or nausea
  • Constant coughing
  • Breathing shortness
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Light-headedness

There is also a little risk of getting an injury to the organs under the laparoscopic observation. The organ under observation may get punctured oozing out fluid and blood in your body. If such a thing happens, you may require another surgical procedure for getting the damage repaired.

Other risks, though less common, may include:

  • Complications arising out of anesthesia
  • Developing inflammation in your abdominal wall
  • Possibility of a blood clot travelling to your lungs, legs or the pelvic region

Preparing for Laparoscopy?

In case you have been using any kind of prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, you should be informing the doctor. Your doctor, in turn, may advise your how these medicines should be used before or after the laparoscopic procedure.

Your doctor might change the medicinal dose if she or he thinks that a particular medicine may alter the outcome of your laparoscopic procedure.

These drugs may include:

  • Anticoagulants, like blood thinners
  • Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), besides aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Dietary or Herbal supplements
  • Vitamin K
  • Other medications, which may affect blood clotting

In case you are pregnant or have been experiencing some pregnancy symptoms, you are advised to inform the doctor. Your doctor will bear this in mind before carrying out the procedure.  This will help him save you from any risk or harm to the developing baby in your uterus.

Before carrying out laparoscopy, your doctor may ask you to undergo some blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), urinalysis and the Chest X-ray. Your doctor may also carry out some imaging tests, using an Ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI scan.

These tests are performed to better understand the irregularity being observed in the laparoscopy procedure. The outcomes also give your doctor a visual direction to the interiors of your abdomen. This may help in improving the efficacy of performing laparoscopy.

Before performing laparoscopy, your doctor may advise you to shun eating or drinking during the last at least 8 hours. Often, laparoscopy is performed by giving the patient general anesthesia, which may make you drowsy for several hours.  It is always advised to arrange a friend or a family member to drive you back home after the surgery.

How is the Laparoscopy procedure performed?

 Laparoscopy is generally performed as an outpatient method. This means that you do not get admitted in the Clinic or a hospital and you are allowed to go home after a few hours of your surgery.

You are given general anesthesia for undergoing this kind of surgery. This means that while you are undergoing the procedure, you will be sleeping throughout the procedure so that you do not feel any kind of pain.

In certain cases, local anesthesia is used instead. A local anesthetic numbs the area, so even though you will be awake during the surgery, you will not feel any pain.

During laparoscopy, an incision will be made below your belly button. A small tube called a cannula will then be inserted. The cannula is used to inflate your abdomen with carbon dioxide gas. This gas allows your doctor to see your abdominal organs more clearly. Once the abdomen is inflated, the laparoscope will be inserted through the incision. The camera attached to the laparoscope will display the images on a screen, allowing your doctor to see your organs in real time.

Up to a total of four cuts will be made. These incisions allow other instruments to be inserted. For example, your doctor may need to use another surgical tool to perform a biopsy. During a biopsy, your doctor will take a small sample of tissue from an organ to be evaluated.

Once the procedure is complete, the inserted instruments are removed. Your incisions are either stitched or closed with a surgical tape. Your incisions, thereafter, are bandaged.

How much time it takes recovering from Laparoscopy?

 When the procedure gets over, you are kept under observation for some hours before releasing you from the Clinic or the hospital. Your very important signs, such as breathing and heart rate are closely monitored. The staff nurses keep an eye on your developing any kind of undesirable responses to the anesthesia or the surgery, besides monitoring if the bleeding gets heavy or prolonged.

Your release timing may vary and depends on:

  • Your physical condition on the whole
  • The kind of anesthesia used in the procedure
  • Your body’s response to the procedure

If your physical condition so warrants, you may be asked to remain in the Clinic/Hospital overnight.

If you are given general anesthesia before carrying out the procedure, seek the help of a friend or a family member for driving you home. The general anesthesia keeps you drowsy for several hours and it may be unsafe if you would be driving when your reflexes are weak.

Following the laparoscopy procedure, you might experience moderate pain as well as throbbing for a few days in the regions where cuts/incisions were done. Your pain and discomfort generally improves in a few days. Your treating doctor may also prescribe medicines for relieving the pain.

Experiencing shoulder pain is too common after the surgery. This pain is generally the result of the presence of carbon-dioxide gas. The gas may, sometimes, interfere and irritate the diaphragm that shares your nerves with the shoulder. You may even feel a kind of bloating. These discomforts usually go away in a couple of days.

You may generally resume all routine activities in a week’s time. Your doctor may ask you to have a follow-up appointment with him/her about two weeks after the laparoscopic surgery.

Outcome of Laparoscopy

If a biopsy is taken, it is sent to a pathologist for examining it. A pathologist is a medical doctor, specializing in tissue analysis.  He is responsible to send the examination report details to your treating doctor.

If the report does not indicate intestinal blockages, hernia or any kind of abdominal bleeding, that would mean your organs are found to be healthy.

Unusual report results for laparoscopy may point to some medical conditions like:

Your treating doctor may want you to schedule an appointment with him for reviewing the laparoscopy results.  In case of a serious medical condition is found, he or she starts the suitable treatment.

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