Laparoscopy is just a big word for a small procedure. It is a fairly noninvasive method used to examine the interior of the abdomen, pelvic cavity and other parts of the body. While laparoscopy can be used to aid in diagnoses, it is also frequently used to perform surgical procedures. A laparoscopy is an outpatient procedure and general anesthetic is usually used. More complex procedures, such as a laparoscopic hysterectomy, may require an overnight stay in the hospital.

How is it performed?

A laparoscope is a thin scope (about the width of a pencil) which uses fiber optics to “light up” the abdomen. It is usually placed through a tiny incision near or in the belly button. By attaching a camera to the laparoscope, the doctor can examine your “insides” thorough a tiny incision. Sometimes additional incisions are placed in order to put other instruments into the abdomen.

As a diagnostic tool, laparoscopy is used to investigate the causes of gynecological pain such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts and tumors, or to discover and treat ectopic pregnancy. It is also performed to learn the reason for abdominal pain or tenderness, and to investigate scar tissue or other problems that may impede fertility. 

As a surgical tool, laparoscopy is most commonly used for removal of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, to perform sterilization in female patients, or to assist in hysterectomy. 

Performing laparoscopy usually only requires two to four tiny incisions. One incision is made just below the navel, and another is usually made near the bikini line. For organ removal, additional incisions may be required on either side of the abdomen. 


There is some risk of infection. There is a risk of puncturing an organ, which could cause the contents of the intestines to leak. There may also be bleeding into the abdominal cavity. Sometimes the surgery cannot be successfully completed by laparoscopy. Then the doctor may have to complete the operation using traditional “open” abdominal surgery, called laparotomy. This is called “converting” to laparotomy.

Complications after laparoscopic surgery are rare. Most people recover quickly and resume their normal activities without problems.

Notify your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Incision begins to bleed or leak fluid
  • Incision becomes red, swollen, or feels warm
  • Fever develops
  • There is increased pain in the abdomen or pelvic area
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, and/or leg pain develops
  • Light-headedness or dizzy spells occur

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