Laparoscopic Surgery: Minimally Invasive Diagnosis and Treatment

It wasn’t long ago that exploring reproductive health issues and treating them, once diagnosed, could mean a long surgery, a long incision and a long recovery. Today, doctors are able to diagnose and treat many issues and even perform hysterectomies with minimally invasive gynecologic laparoscopy.

What Is laparoscopy?

Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive technique that uses a unique instrument called the laparoscope. The laparoscope is a long, slender device with a light and a tiny camera inserted through a small incision to view the reproductive organs and other organs in the abdomen. The provider can view the abdominal and pelvic organs on a screen. If a problem needs to be fixed, they can often be repaired using laparoscopy during the same procedure.

What are the benefits of laparoscopy?

In “open” surgery, the incision may be several inches long, cutting through skin, muscle and other tissues. Laparoscopy uses small incisions, typically about 1/2 inch long, for faster and less painful recovery. Because the incision is small and heals more quickly, there is a lowered risk of infection.

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Laparoscopy for both diagnosis and treatment

Laparoscopy can be used to explore the internal organs with a level of detail and imagery not available through methods such as ultrasound. Providers use laparoscopy to find the root cause of chronic pelvic pain, infertility or other health issues. If something is found during the laparoscopic exploration, it can often be treated on the spot – sometimes through the same small incision.

Laparoscopy can diagnose and treat:

  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pelvic abscesses
  • Infertility
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Pelvic floor disorders
  • Pelvic adhesions or scar tissue
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Cancer

Laparoscopy is also an option for procedures such as tubal ligation, minimally invasive hysterectomy. Sometimes a laparoscopy will identify issues, such as large masses or widespread endometriosis, that then need to be treated through conventional surgery.

What can I expect during a laparoscopy?

Laparoscopy usually is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia, although in some cases regional anesthesia may be appropriate. After anesthesia is given, the provider makes a small incision in the abdomen in a location determined to be the best for accessing your particular needs. The provider then inserts the laparoscope through this small incision. During the procedure, the provider fills the abdomen with gas to create space for a better view of reproductive organs and other areas of concern in the abdomen. The camera and light attached to the laparoscope sends pictures to a screen where the doctor can view the images in great detail. Depending on what is discovered, your doctor may perform additional laparoscopic procedures to treat issues while you are under anesthetic. Your doctor can discuss those possibilities and risks with you before your laparoscopy.

What should I expect during recovery?

If you had outpatient surgery, you can often go home the same day after spending some time in recovery to come out of the anesthetic. More complex procedures, such as laparoscopic hysterectomy, may require an overnight stay in the hospital.

After the procedure you may have a few days of fatigue and discomfort. Your doctor will go over the full list of expectations and rules for your fastest recovery and when you can get back to your normal routine. It is typical for a patient to require a few days of rest without strenuous activity or lifting to optimize healing.

Don’t put off treatment because you are worried about invasive surgery and a long recovery. If you are experiencing pelvic pain or reproductive health issues, gynecological laparoscopy can provide the most thorough and conclusive diagnosis and maybe even a solution at the same time.