Exploratory surgery; Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy
Abdominal exploration is surgery to look at the organs and structures in your belly area (abdomen). This includes your:
Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy.
Exploratory laparotomy is done while you are under general anesthesia. This means you are asleep and feel no pain.
The surgeon makes a cut into the abdomen and examines the abdominal organs. The size and location of the surgical cut depend on the specific health concern.
A biopsy can be taken during the procedure.
Laparoscopy describes a procedure that is performed with a tiny camera placed inside the abdomen. If possible, laparoscopy will be done instead of laparotomy.
Your health care provider may recommend a laparotomy if imaging tests of the abdomen, such as x-rays and CT scans, have not provided an accurate diagnosis.
Exploratory laparotomy may be used to help diagnose and treat many health conditions, including:
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general include:
Risks of this surgery include:
You will visit with your provider and have medical tests before your surgery. Your provider will:
Tell your provider:
During the week before your surgery:
You may be asked to temporarily stop taking blood thinners. Some of these are:
Ask your provider which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
Prepare your home for your return from the hospital.
On the day of your surgery:
You should be able to start eating and drinking normally about 2 to 3 days after the surgery. How long you stay in the hospital depends on the severity of the problem. Complete recovery usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks.
Landmann A, Bonds M, Postier R. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 46.
Sham JG, Reames BN, He J. Management of periampullary cancer. In: Cameron AM, Cameron JL, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:545-552.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 2/28/2022
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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