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What is a Laparoscopic Tubal Ligation?

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  • Written By: Amanda L. Wardle
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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A laparoscopic tubal ligation is a method of performing female sterilization through a short, minimally invasive surgical procedure involving very small incisions in the abdomen. In this procedure, a laparoscope is used to enter the abdomen and obstruct the normal function of the fallopian tubes in order to prevent ovulation and fertilization. A laparoscopic tubal ligation usually results in successful and permanent prevention of pregnancy. This form of surgery is often performed on an outpatient basis or after childbirth.

Normally, a laparoscopic tubal ligation is a relatively short procedure, taking as little as 30 minutes. The patient is placed under local anesthesia for the length of the surgery. A surgeon makes a small "keyhole" incision, generally no more than 0.5 inches (1 cm) long, in or near the navel. A laparoscope, which is a long, thin instrument, is then inserted into this incision. The laparoscope allows the surgeon to view the inside of the abdomen on a video monitor during surgery.

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Carbon dioxide gas may be pumped into the pelvic area to "inflate" it, offering the surgeon better visibility and access to the fallopian tubes. A second incision may be made to insert another instrument that will be used to apply a clip or ring to the fallopian tubes, or to cut, tie, or cauterize them to prevent normal function. Once this is complete, the instruments are removed and the incisions closed. The incisions are small, so closing them often requires only one to two stitches.

The patient is observed for several hours following surgery, and is usually released to return home later that day. It is common for patients to experience some discomfort during the recovery period. Soreness and cramping, as well as light nausea resulting from the anesthesia, are frequently reported post-operative symptoms, but they usually only persist for a few days.

Laparoscopic tubal ligation does have a number of advantages. The small size of the incision reduces the risk of hemorrhage and scarring, as well as the potential for infection that may result from exposure of internal organs during surgery. Pain and recovery time are also reduced to a minimum.

Though generally considered a safe and standard procedure, there are some risks associated with this type of surgery. Risks include excessive bleeding from the incision, internal bleeding or damage to nearby organs, and complications from anesthesia. The rate of complication is low, usually occurring in only one to four patients for every 1,000 surgeries performed.

Some individuals may not be eligible for laparoscopic tubal ligation. Those who have undergone previous abdominal surgeries may find that laparoscopy is not the most suitable solution. A laparoscopy may not be the appropriate method for individuals who are obese. The cost of the surgery may be a hindrance for some individuals, although medical insurance will often cover the procedure. Women considering this procedure should consult a surgeon, gynecologist, or general practitioner to carefully determine whether laparoscopic tubal ligation is the best choice.

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