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Laparoscopy is just a big word for a small procedure. It is a fairly noninvasive method used to examine the interior of the abdomen, pelvic cavity and other parts of the body. While laparoscopy can be used to aid in diagnoses, it is also frequently used to perform "keyhole" surgical procedures.
Rather than creating a large incision and opening up the body, tiny incisions are made and a laparoscope is inserted. This slim scope has a lighted end. It takes pictures — actually fiber optic images - and sends them to a monitor so the surgeon can see what is going on inside.
As a diagnostic tool, laparoscopy is used to investigate the causes of gynecological pain such as endometrial lesions, cysts and tumors, or to discover ectopic pregnancy. It is also performed to learn the reason for abdominal pain or tenderness, and to investigate scar tissue or other problems that may impede fertility.
As a surgical tool, laparoscopy is most commonly used to perform hernia repair, removal of endometrial and other ovarian cysts, sterilization in female patients, or to execute partial hysterectomy. Laparoscopic surgery has also become popular in the removal of the gall bladder and the appendix.
Performing laparoscopy usually only requires two to four tiny incisions less than one half inch, (about 8-10 millimeters) in length. One incision is made just below the navel, and another is usually made near the bikini line. For organ removal, additional incisions may be required on either side of the abdomen.
The first incision allows a needle to be injected into the abdomen so carbon dioxide gas can be pumped inside to buoy the walls of the abdomen up and away from organs. This allows the surgeon a better view and more room to maneuver the laparoscope and surgical tools as needed.
Using small incisions rather than opening the abdomen lessens recovery time as well as discomfort and makes surgical scars less noticeable. Many patients undergo laparoscopy as an outpatient procedure, returning home within 24 hours of surgery. Most begin feeling much better within the week. Depending on the nature of the procedure such as when organ removal is performed, full recovery may take a few weeks.