What is Laparoscopy?
Laparoscopy is a type of surgery which utilizes small cameras and mechanical devices at the end of small ports which can be inserted through tiny incisions into body cavities such as the abdomen or chest. It is a much less invasive operation than open surgery and is often preferred by doctors and patients alike. It usually is more cost efficient and causes less inconvenience for patients in terms of stress and recovery time.
During a laparoscopic surgery, a small tubular device with a camera and a light on the end of it, called a laparoscope, is inserted into a patient’s abdomen via a small incision made in the abdomen. Sometimes several small cuts must be made to give more tools access to inside. Using laparoscopes, the surgeon is able to see a video of the patient’s inner organs on a video monitor and evaluate the course of treatment less invasively. If parts of organs—or whole organs—need to be removed, laparoscopes also can be used to perform surgery through the small incision. Usually, the operation takes 30 minutes to 90 minutes—longer if endometriosis is found in female patients. Patients are put under general anesthesia throughout the entire procedure. Laparoscopy is performed for a variety of different reasons:
- Abdominal Tumor Removal—tumors found in or on organs in the abdomen, such as the liver, the gallbladder, the stomach and the kidneys, can be removed with laparoscopic surgery.
- Endometriosis—women who are having trouble getting pregnant may undergo laparoscopic surgery for diagnostic purposes, to check for endometriosis or inflammation in their pelvic organs. These procedures are usually done after fertility tests suggest the presence of cysts, fibroids (tumors in the uterus), infection or abdominal adhesions (bands of tissue that form in the body and prevent organs from shifting easily around one another) may be preventing proper fertilization. Of all these conditions, endometriosis is the most physically painful, as it sometimes results in bleeding, and tissue may need to be treated with laparoscopic surgery.
- Biopsy—a laparoscopic incision lets the surgeon collect tissue samples from liver, gallbladder, kidneys or other abdominal organs without too much risk.
- Cancer—laparoscopy can be used to check if abdominal cancers such as stomach cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer and gallbladder cancer have spread to other parts of the abdomen.
- Hiatal Hernia Treatment—surgery may be necessary to fix the structural problems of the stomach associated with hiatal hernias (occur when part of the stomach unnaturally pushes up against a patient’s diaphragm). This may or may not be a way to effectively treat conditions such as GERD (acid reflux disease) or chronic heartburn.
- Organ Removal—in cases where entire organs need to be removed, laparoscopic surgery is usually the preferred method. Common organs removed with laparoscopy include the gallbladder, the spleen, the uterus, the ovaries and the appendix. Parts of the colon can also be removed, or re-sectioned, with laparoscopy.
Reviewed 12/29/2011 by David M. Nolan, M.D.
Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, 2011
Currently a Fellow of Gastroenterology, at UCI 2011-2014