Exploratory Laparotomy

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What is Exploratory Laparotomy?

A laparotomy is a surgery of the abdomen, which requires a standard surgical incision.

When is it used?

A laparotomy is a diagnostic procedure used to assess disease in the abdomen. It is used for acute situations in which the cause of the problem is unknown but the location is within the abdomen.  Examples include perforated bowel, ectopic (outside the womb) pregnancy, endometriosis, appendicitis, bleeding, and inflammation of the pancreas. If the diagnosis made at laparotomy is amenable to further surgery, it is often done immediately.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

As with any procedure, there are risks. Be sure to discuss these risks with your physician prior to the procedure. Additionally there are some risks when you have general anesthesia. Discuss those risks and the following with your provider:

  • Damage to a vein or artery that could cause serious bleeding.
  • Making a hole in your bladder that could cause a tract (fistula) between your vagina and bladder.
  • That you may have difficulty emptying your bladder.
  • Damage to your ureters (the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder.)
  • That you may develop infection in your incision or in your pelvis.

How do I prepare for Exploratory Laparotomy?

Follow your health care provider's instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers heal more slowly after surgery. They are also more likely to have breathing problems during surgery. For this reason, if you are a smoker, you should quit at least 2 weeks before the procedure. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery. Also, your wounds will heal much better if you do not smoke after surgery.

Follow any other instructions your provider gives you. If you are to have general anesthesia, eat a light meal, such as soup or salad, the night before midnight. Do not eat or drink after midnight.  Do not even drink coffee, tea, or water.

What happens after the procedure?

Recovery from open laparotomy will require generally two days in the hospital.  More than likely, you will not be able to work from two to six weeks after surgery, based on what you provider finds. Plan for your care and recovery after the operation. Allow for time to rest. Try to find other people to help you with your day-to-day duties.

When should I call Greenville OB/GYN?

Call our emergency number at any time if:

  • Bleeding or discharge from the incisions
  • Fever
  • Increasing or unremitting pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation beyond the first few days
  • Pain or swelling in your legs
  • Cough or difficulty breathing
  • Pain or difficulty with urination

Call during regular office hours if:

  • You have questions about the procedure or its result.
  • You want to make another appointment.

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