We Know: All About Laparotomy

What is a Laparotomy?

A Laparotomy is a surgical procedure that involves making an incision in the wall of the abdomen. The patient is put under local anesthesia for the surgery. The surgery is usually performed when a patient complains of severe abdominal pain. During a laparotomy, treatment of problems may also be administered. In other cases a subsequent surgery may be necessary. Once the laparotomy is complete the abdominal wall is closed and the overlying skin is sewn shut. Staples can also be used to keep the suture secure.

When is a Laparotomy Performed?

Laparotomy can be performed for a variety of reasons. By opening up the abdominal wall a doctor can pinpoint and diagnose problems that may be affecting the digestive tract (stomach, liver and intestines) and the organs of excretion (kidneys and bladder). A laparotomy is also often performed on women to explore their reproductive organs (uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries). Women with endometriosis who have cysts 5cm and over in size may also require a laparotomy.

What Can be Discovered by a Laparotomy?

Diseases that may be discovered by exploratory laparotomy include the following:

  • Inflammation of the appendix (acute appendicitis)
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (acute or chronic pancreatitis)
  • Pockets of infection (retroperitoneal abscess, abdominal abscess, pelvic abscess)
  • Presence of uterine tissue (endometrium) in the abdomen (endometriosis)
  • Inflammation of the fallopian tubes (salpingitis)
  • Scar tissue in the abdomen (adhesions)
  • Cancer (of the ovary, colon, pancreas, liver)
  • Inflammation of an intestinal pocket (diverticulitis)
  • Hole in the intestine (intestinal perforation)
  • Pregnancy outside of the uterus (ectopic pregnancy)
  • Internal bleeding and obstructions

What is the Recovery Period for this Surgery?

Patients should expect significant swelling where the incision was made. Soreness in the area is also common. Hospital stay required is usually 2-5 days following the surgery. Pain medication is given in the hospital and afterwards to manage pain. The consumption of solid food and a bowel movement are usually required before a patient can be discharged. Heavy lifting and strenuous exercise are prohibited for two weeks following the surgery. Full recovery can take 1-2 months.



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