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(Surgery with Keyhole Incisions)

Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.


Definition    TOP

Laparoscopy is a type of surgery done through small cuts in the belly. Small tools and a scope with a tiny camera are placed through the cuts. This allows the doctor to see inside. Laparoscopy is popular because it usually shortens recovery time. It also leaves smaller scars in most cases.

Laparoscopic Instruments Being Placed in the Abdomen

nucleus image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Reasons for Procedure    TOP

Laparoscopy can be used to:

  • Remove or repair structures in the belly or pelvis
  • Diagnose illness
  • Take biopsies

Possible Complications    TOP

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review possible problems such as:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Damage to structures
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Switching to an open surgery

Your chances of problems may be higher for:


What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Procedure

You may have:

In the days leading up to your procedure:

  • Depending on what’s worked on, you may need to clean out your bowels.
  • Arrange for a ride home.
  • Eat a light meal the night before. Don’t eat or drink after midnight. You may get other information from your healthcare staff.
  • Talk to your doctor about all the medicines you take. You may need to stop take certain medicines up to 1 week in advance.


In most cases, you will have general anesthesia to keep you asleep.

Description of the Procedure    TOP

First, gas is placed into the belly to make it expand. This makes it easier to see the structures inside. The laparoscope is placed through small holes cut in the skin. Scopes can light, magnify, and project images onto a screen.

Sometimes, other cuts are made in the belly. Tiny tools are used to take biopsies or fix problems. The cuts are closed with stitches or clips.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

The time depends on what is needed.

Will It Hurt?    TOP

Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Medicines will help ease pain after it.

Post-procedure Care    TOP

To help you heal faster:

  • Remove the dressing the next day if advised.
  • Avoid heavy lifting or straining.
  • Don’t drink carbonated beverages for a brief period of time.

You may return to normal activity in about a week. Your doctor will talk to you about a care plan if a diagnosis is made. Biopsy results may take up to a week to come back.


Call Your Doctor    TOP

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, pain, excess bleeding, or pus from the wound
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you can’t control with the medicines you were given
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Problems passing urine or having a bowel movement

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American College of Surgeons

Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons


Health Canada

Women's College Hospital—Women's Health Matters


Diagnostic laparoscopy patient information from SAGES. Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.sages.org/publications/patient-information/patient-information-for-diagnostic-laparoscopy-from-sages. March 1, 2015. Accessed July 2, 2018.

Laparoscopy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq061.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130723T1313462445. Updated July 2015. Accessed July 2, 2018.

6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD
Last Updated: 7/2/2018

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