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Diagnostic laparoscopy

Laparoscopy - diagnostic; Exploratory laparoscopy

Diagnostic laparoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor to look directly at the contents of the abdomen or pelvis.

Images

Pelvic laparoscopy
Female reproductive anatomy
Incision for abdominal laparoscopy

How the Test is Performed

The procedure is usually done in the hospital or outpatient surgical center under general anesthesia (while you are asleep and pain-free). The procedure is performed in the following way:

How to Prepare for the Test

Follow instructions on not eating and drinking before surgery.

You may need to stop taking medicines, including narcotic pain relievers, on or before the day of the exam. DO NOT change or stop taking any medicines without first talking to your health care provider.

Follow any other instructions for how to prepare for the procedure.

How the Test will Feel

You will feel no pain during the procedure. Afterward, the incisions may be sore. Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever.

You may also have shoulder pain for a few days. The gas used during the procedure can irritate the diaphragm, which shares some of the same nerves as the shoulder. You may also have an increased urge to urinate, since the gas can put pressure on the bladder.

You will recover for a few hours at the hospital before going home. You will probably not stay overnight after a laparoscopy.

You will not be allowed to drive home. Someone should be available to take you home after the procedure.

Why the Test is Performed

Diagnostic laparoscopy is often done for the following:

Normal Results

The laparoscopy is normal if there is no blood in the abdomen, no hernias, no intestinal obstruction, and no cancer in any visible organs. The uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries are of normal size, shape, and color. The liver is normal.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to a number of different conditions, including:

Risks

There is a risk for infection. You may get antibiotics to prevent this complication.

There is a risk of puncturing an organ. This could cause the contents of the intestines to leak. There may also be bleeding into the abdominal cavity. These complications could lead to immediate open surgery (laparotomy).

Diagnostic laparoscopy may not be possible if you have a swollen bowel, fluid in the abdomen (ascites), or you have had a past surgery.

Related Information

Acute cholecystitis
Appendicitis
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Cancer
Endometriosis
Ectopic pregnancy
Ovarian cysts
Uterine fibroids

References

Falcone T, Walters MD. Diagnostic laparoscopy. In: Baggish MS, Karram MM, eds. Atlas of Pelvic Anatomy and Gynecologic Surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 115.

Velasco JM, Ballo R, Hood K, Jolley J, Rinewalt D, Veenstra B. Exploratory laparotomy - laparoscopic. In: Velasco JM, Ballo R, Hood K, Jolley J, Rinewalt D, Veenstra B, consulting eds. Essential Surgical Procedures. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 1.

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Review Date: 5/17/2020  

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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