What is laparoscopy?
Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique which allows the surgeon to operate without the need for deep or large incisions in the skin. This means the recovery period is generally shorter, there is less pain after the operation, and scarring is reduced significantly for the patient. This technique is also known as keyhole surgery.
Why is it done?
Laparoscopy can be used to both treat and diagnose a range of conditions across specialties such as surgery, gynaecology, gastroenterology, and urology. Laparoscopy may be used in investigation, to check symptoms and attempt to reach a diagnosis, for example in cases of ovarian cysts, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, and appendicitis. Laparoscopy can also be used to take a biopsy (a small sample of tissue) meaning it can be used to investigate certain cancers, e.g liver cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and many more.
As a surgical technique, laparoscopy is especially useful as it allows for minimal scarring and a shorter recovery period, which is advantageous to the patient. Laparoscopy can be used as a surgical technique in many situations, such as:
- Weight loss surgery
- Removal of the gallbladder as a treatment for gallstones
- Removal of the appendix
- Repairing stomach ulcers
- Treating ectopic pregnancy
- Removal of organs affected by cancer
What does it involve?
Laparoscopy is performed under general anaesthetic. The surgeon makes small incisions in the abdomen and inserts a laparoscope, which is a small camera attached to the end of a thin tube, allowing the surgeon to see inside the abdomen through a projection on a TV monitor in front of them. The surgeon uses small instruments to perform surgery, looking at the TV monitor for a clear view of the area they need to operate on.
How do you prepare for laparoscopy?
Generally, you will be asked not to eat or drink anything for 6-12 hours before the procedure. You will also be asked to stop taking blood-thinning medication a few days before the procedure takes place. If you are a smoker, your surgeon may advise you not to smoke for a few days before the procedure, as smoking can delay the healing process.
As laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure, you can generally go home either on the same day or the day following surgery. Someone will need to accompany you home as you will be advised not to drive for the 24 hours following the procedure.
Recovery from laparoscopy depends on the type of procedure performed. After diagnostic laparoscopy, for example, you may be able to resume normal activity after five days. If surgery is more minor, for example ulcer repair, normal activity may be resumed in around three weeks. Major surgery, such as hysterectomy or organ removal (e.g kidney) typically takes longer – up to 12 weeks. Your surgeon or doctor will advise you on how to clean your stitches and keep wounds clean.
Expect to feel tired or somewhat drained after surgery for a few days, but this should pass as your body uses less and less energy as the recovery process goes on. If you experience any pain, you can take over-the-counter medication pain relief to reduce it.
Alternatives to laparoscopy
Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive technique which is used as an alternative to traditional open surgery. Open surgery may be necessary in certain situations and your surgeon will speak to you regarding your options before making a decision as to which type of surgery will be performed.