For Patients

Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery)

Laparoscopy is a type of surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen (tummy) and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.

This procedure is also known as keyhole surgery or minimally invasive surgery.

Large incisions can be avoided during laparoscopy because the surgeon uses an instrument called a laparoscope.

This is a small tube that has a light source and a camera, which relays images of the inside of the abdomen or pelvis to a television monitor.

The advantages of this technique over traditional open surgery include:

  • a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery time
  • less pain and bleeding after the operation
  • reduced scarring

When laparoscopy is used?

Laparoscopy can be used to help diagnose a wide range of conditions that develop inside the abdomen or pelvis. It can also be used to carry out surgical procedures, such as removing a damaged or diseased organ, or removing a tissue sample for further testing (biopsy).

Diagnosing conditions

Diagnosis is to directly study the affected part of the body using a laparoscope. Undescended testicles – a common childhood condition where a boy is born without one or both testicles in their scrotum appendicitis – a painful swelling of the appendix (a small pouch connected to the large intestine) unexplained pelvic or abdominal pain.

Treating condition

  • removing an inflamed appendix – in cases of appendicitis where there's a high risk of the appendix bursting
  • removing the gallbladder – often used to treat gallstones
  • removing a section of the intestine – often used to treat digestive conditions, such as Crohn's disease or diverticulitis, that don't respond to medication
  • repairing hernias – such as those found in the groin
  • repairing burst or bleeding stomach ulcers
  • performing weight loss surgery
  • removing some or all of an organ affected by cancer – such as the ovaries, prostate, liver, colon, kidney or bladder
  • treating ectopic pregnancy – it's usually necessary to remove the embryo to prevent damage to the fallopian tubes
  • removing fibroids
  • removing the womb (hysterectomy) – sometimes used to treat pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometriosis, heavy periods or painful periods

How it's performed

Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery)

Removed (although dissolvable stitches are often used)

For a few days after the procedure, you're likely to feel some pain and discomfort where the incisions were made, and you may also have a sore throat if a breathing tube was used. You'll be given painkilling medication to help ease the pain.

Some of the gas used to inflate your abdomen can remain inside your abdomen after the procedure, which can cause:

  • bloating
  • cramps
  • shoulder pain, as the gas can irritate your diaphragm (the muscle you use to breathe), which in turn can irritate nerve endings in your shoulder

These symptoms are nothing to worry about and should pass after a day or so, once your body has absorbed the remaining gas.

In the days or weeks after the procedure, you'll probably feel more tired than usual, as your body is using a lot of energy to heal itself. Taking regular naps may help.

Recovery times

The time it takes to recover from laparoscopy is different for everybody. It depends on factors such as the reason the procedure was carried out (whether it was used to diagnose or treat a condition), your general health and if any complications develop

You may want to ask some questions of your own, such as:

  • What happens before the operation?
  • Why do I have to wear the surgical stockings?
  • What will I feel like after the operation?
  • How long will the effects of the anaesthetic last?
  • How will my pain be managed after the surgery?
  • What should I do, and who should I tell, if I'm in pain?
  • What are the visiting arrangements?
  • Will I return to the same ward after the surgery?
  • When will I see the consultant?
  • When can I expect to go home after the operation?
  • When will I be told about any results of samples taken?