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A laparoscopy is a type of keyhole surgery used to inspect and operate on the organs inside the abdominal (belly) and pelvic area. It has advantages over traditional surgery, including more rapid recovery, reduced pain and much smaller scars. If you have a laparoscopy, it often means you don't need to stay in hospital overnight.

What is laparoscopy?

Keyhole surgery is a type of surgery in which the surgeon uses only small cuts to get through the skin. It requires special training. People who have keyhole surgery usually recover quite quickly.

Laparoscopy is keyhole surgery used to examine or operate on the interior of the abdominal or pelvic cavities. It is performed under general anaesthesia, usually by a surgeon or gynaecologist (women’s health specialist).

During laparoscopy a small cut is made in the abdomen. A thin tube containing a light and camera, known as a laparoscope, is then inserted to look inside the abdomen and pelvis. Gas is used to inflate the belly so the surgeon can see the organs properly.

One or more other small cuts may be made for other small instruments if needed.

illustration of a laproscopy
Image of a laparoscope inserted into the abdomen, with a second incision for small instruments.

When is laparoscopy used?

Laparoscopy is used to diagnosis conditions or perform surgery in the abdominal and pelvic area. It can be used to:

  • assess painful or heavy periods
  • remove the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries
  • diagnose or treat endometriosis
  • diagnose or remove ovarian cysts and tumours
  • assess female infertility
  • treat ectopic pregnancy
  • remove the gall bladder or parts of the intestine
  • take a biopsy (a small tissue sample) for testing
  • search for the causes of abdominal or pelvic pain

After the procedure

When you wake from the procedure, you may feel a little sore around the cuts. You may also have some pain in your shoulder — this is caused by pressure from the gas in your abdomen.

After a few hours in recovery, you are likely to be sent home with care instructions, including about any pain, dressings and stiches you may have.

Laparoscopy complications

Like any surgery, laparoscopy can have complications such as:

  • bleeding from the incisions
  • infection
  • damage to an organ or blood vessel
  • blood clots in your legs or lung

As with any operation, there is also a small risk of complications associated with general anaesthesia.

Notify the hospital or your doctor immediately if you have:

  • pain that is worsening or not improving
  • increasing pain in your shoulders
  • pain or other problems when urinating
  • bleeding that is increasing or not settling
  • a fever or temperature
  • you feel that you are not recovering relatively quickly
  • any other symptoms that you are concerned about

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Last reviewed: September 2019

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