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The Alternative Surgery: Laparoscopy

The Alternative Surgery:

What is laparoscopy?
What are the risks of laparoscopy?
Why is laparoscopy done?
What is a laparoscope?
What happens during laparoscopy?
What should I expect if I have a laparoscopy?

What is laparoscopy?
Laparoscopy is minor surgery. It lets your doctor look into your belly area to better see what's happening in there. While you are under general anesthesia, your doctor makes a tiny incision just below your belly button. A small viewing device called a laparoscope is then inserted into your belly. During laparoscopy, your doctor can examine your internal organs directly. Surgery can even be done this way. You have much less pain after laparoscopy than after regular surgery. And you get better much more quickly. back to top

What are the risks of laparoscopy?
Like all surgery, laparoscopy has risks. Laparoscopy can cause infection and bleeding. It rarely happens, but it's possible for the organs to be injured when the doctor inserts the needle or the laparoscope.

If you're having surgery during the laparoscopy, there's always the possibility that your doctor might need to switch from laparoscopy to regular surgery. It is hard to control heavy bleeding with laparoscopic instruments. If heavy bleeding starts, the doctor may need to make a regular, larger incision in your belly to get the problem under control. back to top

Why is laparoscopy done?
There are many possible reasons for laparoscopy. It's used to diagnose medical problems like pelvic pain. With the laparoscope, your doctor can tell if the pain is caused by ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis, or ovarian cysts.

Doctors can also perform surgery through the laparoscope. They can remove ovarian cysts, an ectopic pregnancy, or endometriosis. back to top

What is a laparoscope?
A laparoscope looks like a long, thin telescope. There's an eyepiece at one end, and special lens at the other end. The lens provides an excellent view of everything near it. The laparoscope also has its own light to make it easier to see inside your body. back to top

What happens during laparoscopy?
The laparoscope is only a half-inch or an inch across, so it can be inserted through a tiny incision. A tiny incision means that laparoscopy is far less painful than regular surgery. Recovery is easier and quicker, too. In fact, most people go home the same day that the laparoscopy is done.

Usually general anesthesia is used for laparoscopy. That's the kind of anesthesia that makes you feel as if you are asleep. Your doctor will make a tiny incision right below your belly button. Then a thin needle is put through the incision into your belly. Carbon dioxide gas is pumped into your belly, just like gas going into a balloon. This gas lifts up your abdominal wall until it's far away from your internal organs. That way, your organs are protected from injury and it's easier to see everything in your belly.

After the right amount of carbon dioxide has filled your belly area, your doctor removes the thin needle. The laparoscope is then put in through the incision. Now your doctor can look at all your pelvic organs, and many of your abdominal organs, too.

If you need surgery during the laparoscopy, your doctor will make another tiny incision, or a few more. These will be just above your pubic hair or in the lower corners of your belly. Tiny surgical instruments are inserted through these extra incisions.

Your doctor can use those instruments to do whatever surgery is needed, while watching through the laparoscope.

When the procedure is done, your doctor will remove all the instruments. The carbon dioxide gas escapes through the incisions. Your doctor will close the incisions with a few stitches. That's it! back to top

What should I expect if I have a laparoscopy?
Usually you won't have to stay overnight at the hospital. You'll probably come to the hospital in the morning, have your laparoscopy done, and be home by dinnertime. The hardest part of recovering from a laparoscopy is just getting over the effects of the general anesthesia. You shouldn't have much pain. If you do have some pain, a medicine like ibuprofen (AdvilŪ) can help.

You might have some pain in your shoulder after laparoscopy. That's because the carbon dioxide gas can irritate your diaphragm. That's the band of muscle that separates your chest from your belly area. Pain from your diaphragm is usually felt in your shoulder.

Most people can go back to their normal activities within 2 to 4 days after laparoscopy. That's compared to 4 to 6 weeks after regular surgery. back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/2/2001
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