Exploratory surgery; Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy
Abdominal exploration is surgery to look at the organs and structures in your belly area (abdomen). This includes your:
- Kidney and ureters
- Uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (in women)
Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy.
Exploratory laparotomy is done while you are under general anesthesia. This means you are asleep and feel no pain.
The surgeon makes a cut into the abdomen and examines the abdominal organs. The size and location of the surgical cut depends on the specific health concern.
A biopsy can be taken during the procedure.
Laparoscopy describes a procedure that is performed with a tiny camera placed inside the abdomen. If possible, laparoscopy will be done instead of laparotomy.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Your health care provider may recommend a laparatomy if imaging tests of the abdomen, such as x-rays and CT scans, have not provided an accurate diagnosis.
Exploratory laparotomy may be used to help diagnose and treat many health conditions, including:
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general include:
- Reactions to medicines, breathing problems
- Bleeding, blood clots, infection
Risks of this surgery include:
- Incisional hernia
- Damage to organs in the abdomen
Before the Procedure
You will visit with your provider and undergo medical tests before your surgery. Your provider will:
- Do a complete physical exam.
- Make sure other medical conditions you may have, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart or lung problems are under control.
- Perform tests to make sure that you will be able to tolerate the surgery.
- If you are a smoker, you should stop smoking several weeks before your surgery. Ask your provider for help.
Tell your provider:
- What medicines, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements you are taking, even ones you bought without a prescription.
- If you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day
- If you might be pregnant
During the week before your surgery:
- You may be asked to temporarily stop taking blood thinners. Some of these are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), vitamin E, warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or ticlopidine (Ticlid).
- Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
- Prepare your home for your return from the hospital.
On the day of your surgery:
- Follow your provider's instructions about when to stop eating and drinking.
- Take medicines your provider told you to take with a small sip of water.
- Arrive at the hospital on time.
You should be able to start eating and drinking normally about 2 to 3 days after the surgery. How long you stay in the hospital depends on the severity of the problem. Complete recovery usually takes about 4 weeks.
D'Souza RE, Novell R. Laparotomy: elective and emergency. In: Novell R, Baker DM, Goddard N, eds. Kirk's General Surgical Operations. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 4.
Squires RA, Carter SN, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 45.