Gynecologic laparoscopy is an alternative to open surgery. It uses a laparoscope to look inside your pelvic area. Open surgery often requires a large incision.
A laparoscope is a slender, lighted telescope. It allows your doctor to see inside your body. Diagnostic laparoscopy can determine whether you have conditions such as endometriosis or fibroids. It can also be a form of treatment. With miniaturized instruments, your doctor can perform a variety of surgeries. These include:
Laparoscopy generally has a shorter healing time than open surgery. It also leaves smaller scars. A gynecologist, general surgeon, or another type of specialist may perform this procedure.
Laparoscopy can be used for diagnosis, treatment, or both. A diagnostic procedure can sometimes turn into treatment.
Some reasons for diagnostic laparoscopy are:
- unexplained pelvic pain
- unexplained infertility
- a history of pelvic infection
Conditions that might be diagnosed using laparoscopy include:
- uterine fibroids
- ovarian cysts or tumors
- ectopic pregnancy
- pelvic abscess, or pus
- pelvic adhesions, or painful scar tissue
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- reproductive cancers
Some types of laparoscopic treatment include:
- hysterectomy, or removal of the uterus
- removal of the ovaries
- removal of ovarian cysts
- removal of fibroids
- blocking blood flow to fibroids
- endometrial tissue ablation, which is a treatment for endometriosis
- adhesion removal
- reversal of a contraceptive surgery called tubal ligation
- Burch procedure for incontinence
- vault suspension to treat a prolapsed uterus
Preparation depends on the type of surgery. You may need imaging tests, or your doctor might order fasting or an enema.
Tell your doctor about any medication you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs and supplements. You may need to stop them before the procedure.
Ask a friend to come pick you up after the surgery or schedule a car service. You will not be allowed to drive yourself.
Laparoscopy is almost always performed under general anesthesia. This means you’ll be unconscious for the procedure. However, you may still be able to go home the same day.
Once you’re asleep, a small tube called a catheter will be inserted to collect your urine. A small needle will be used to fill your abdomen with carbon dioxide gas. The gas keeps the abdominal wall away from your organs, which reduces the risk of injury.
Your surgeon will make a small cut in your navel and insert the laparoscope, which transmits images to a screen. This gives your doctor a clear view of your organs.
What happens next depends on the type of procedure. For diagnosis, your doctor might take a look and then be done. If you need surgery, other incisions will be made. Instruments will be inserted through these holes. Then, surgery is performed using the laparoscope as a guide.
Once the procedure is over, all instruments are removed. Incisions are closed with stitches, and then you’re bandaged and sent to recovery.
Robotic surgery is sometimes used for gynecological laparoscopy. Robotic arms are steadier than human hands. They may also be better at fine manipulations.
Microlaparoscopy is a newer approach. It uses even smaller scopes. This procedure can be done with local anesthesia in your doctor’s office. You won’t be completely unconscious.
Skin irritation and bladder infection are common side effects of this procedure.
More serious complications are rare. However, they include:
- damage to an abdominal blood vessel, the bladder, the bowel, the uterus, and other pelvic structures
- nerve damage
- allergic reactions
- blood clots
- problems with urinating
Conditions that increase your risk of complications include:
- previous abdominal surgery
- being very thin
- extreme endometriosis
- pelvic infection
- chronic bowel disease
The gas used to fill the abdominal cavity can also cause complications if it enters a blood vessel.
Pay close attention to your body during the recovery period. Write down any side effects you’re experiencing and discuss them with your doctor.
Once the procedure is over, nurses will monitor your vital signs. You’ll stay in recovery until the anesthesia wears off. You will not be released until you can urinate on your own. Difficulty urinating is a possible side effect of catheter use.
Recovery time varies. It depends on what procedure was performed. You may be free to go home a few hours after surgery. You might also have to stay in the hospital for one or more nights.
After surgery, your belly button might be tender. There may be bruises on your stomach. The gas inside you can make your chest, middle, and shoulders ache. There’s also a chance that you’ll feel nauseated for the rest of the day.
Before you go home, your doctor will give you instructions on how to manage possible side effects. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication or antibiotics to prevent an infection.
Depending on the surgery, you may be told to rest for a few days or weeks. It may take a month or more to return to normal activities.
Serious complications of laparoscopy are rare. However, you should call your doctor if you have:
- serious abdominal pain
- prolonged nausea and vomiting
- fever of 101°F or higher
- pus or significant bleeding at your incision site
- pain during urination or bowel movements
The results of these procedures are usually good. This technology allows the surgeon to easily see and diagnose many problems. Recovery time is also shorter compared to open surgery.