Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure using a small camera to give a direct visual examination of the pelvic reproductive anatomy. This includes examining the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Laparoscopy is often performed in cases of unexplained infertility or where tubal disease is suspected.
Laparoscopic surgeries are generally same-day procedures, which means the patient checks in and out on the same day. Laparoscopy can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours, depending on findings at the time of surgery. The more complex the procedure, the longer it will take.
For the laparoscopy, two or more incisions are usually made – usually one quarter-inch slit in the navel, and at least one (more commonly two) in the lower abdomen. Then gas is put in the abdomen to inflate the pelvic area, allowing easier viewing of the pelvic organs. The laparoscope is placed through the navel incision, while the other instruments are placed through the other incision(s) so the pelvis can be thoroughly inspected. Additionally, dye is often passed through the fallopian tubes to check for blockage.
The goal of laparoscopic surgery is to correct all abnormalities with the one procedure. Laparoscopic surgery can generally resolve abnormalities such as endometriosis, pelvic scar tissue and abnormal anatomy. It is very uncommon to have to make a bigger incision in order to complete the surgery. Because the laparoscope magnifies the appearance of tissues and because it can come very close to these tissues, skilled laparoscopic surgeons feel that it is better than making an open incision to complete the procedure.
If nothing out of the ordinary is found, the gas is removed and the incisions are closed. After all the pelvic organs have been inspected, the doctor will suggest further treatment (or occasionally surgeries) if necessary.
As with any surgery, laparoscopy does have potential risks, such as injury to one of the abdominal or pelvic organs (including bowel, bladder, or blood vessels), although this is rare. Although this may happen to any patient, it is more common in women who are overweight, have pelvic adhesions or who have had previous abdominal surgery.
If a patient were to sustain injuries during a laparoscopy, a larger incision can be made to repair the damaged organ, which would require a longer hospital stay for recuperation. Very rarely, a damaged organ may not be recognized during the procedure and an additional emergency procedure may have to be performed. In the case of unrecognized bowel injury, a colostomy may be needed.