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A quick guide to laparoscopy

Click to play videoIt may be a word that sounds unfamiliar, though you might have heard it more commonly referred to as ‘keyhole surgery’. Laparoscopy is a way in which procedures can be completed without making any serious incisions into your body – and that can only be a good thing!

Why do I need it?

Laparoscopy is simply a method of surgery, so it’s actually involved in many different operations. In terms of gynecological procedures, it is regularly used in the diagnosis and subsequent treatment of fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, tubal ligations, ectopic pregnancy, and hysterectomy.

What happens during the procedure?

Click to play videoThe laparoscope instrument is a narrow tube fitted with a tiny video camera and filled with a fiber optic cable that casts light. Your doctor will make a very small incision in your abdomen of around a centimeter in order to slip it in. This will usually be inside your belly button, so you won’t even be able to spot it afterwards!

In some cases, you may only need to have local anesthetic, but usually a general anesthetic is used. The reason you need to be ‘asleep’ for laparoscopy is that your doctor will fill your abdomen with gas in order to maneuver the camera and spot the individual pelvic organs more clearly. This would be uncomfortable if you were awake and alert.

Once inserted, the video feed from the camera appears on screens in the operating room where your doctors can see in detail the organs and tissues of interest. If they are trying to diagnose the cause of a problem you’ve been having, such as pelvic pain, they will spend time trying to identify what might be causing this. If they spot something obvious, such as ovarian cysts, then they may immediately operate to remove them.

Surgical instruments can be inserted down the laparoscope or into the original incision, meaning that no further cuts are needed: good news for you!

How will I feel afterwards?

For the majority of procedures done with laparoscopy, you’ll be in and out of hospital within a single day. However, if you are having a more complex form of keyhole surgery, such as laparoscopic hysterectomy, you will have to be supervised overnight.

General anesthetic often makes people feel sick and drowsy for a day or two, and they may have sore throats from where the tube was inserted, but others hardly feel its after-effects at all. Pelvic discomfort is common, as is some aches and pains in your shoulders and back – all a result of the gas used during surgery – but this should settle down in a day or two.

Laparoscopy is used for a variety of different investigations and procedures, so the risks vary depending on what you are having done. More complex surgeries obviously carry greater risk, including bleeding, infection, or internal damage to organs or tissues.

However, everything should go to plan and you’ll start healing as soon as your doctor seals up the incision. Again, depending on which procedure you’ve had, you will need one to six weeks to fully recover and be back to your best.

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