A laparotomy is defined as a surgery with small incision made in the abdomen. An Exploratory laparotomy is performed when it is impossible to get information from the abdomen by clinical diagnosis. Exploratory laparotomy refers to the surgery that is used to visualize and inspect the internal organ and the abdominal cavity of patients who suffer from unknown reasons.

Exploratory laparotomy method helps to explore the abdominal cavity and the organs. This method of diagnose is prescribed for patients with abdominal pain with unknown reason or who have had any abdominal injury. Abdominal injuries can be caused as a result of trauma, infection or accidents. Depending on the cause of abdominal injury there can be a risk of infection outbreak or rupture of any internal organ or bleeding.  Exploratory laparotomy assists the doctor to examine the cause of pain and injury and assist in repair of the abdominal organs.

Exploratory laparotomy also plays an important role in detecting the presence of cancer in any abdominal organs. It enables to discover the staging of cancer and also to collect samples of the tumor tissues. When laparotomy is used in staging abdominal cancer it is referred to as staging laparotomy.

There are various medical conditions that can be diagnosed using exploratory laparotomy. These include:

  • cancer of the abdominal organs
  • peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum)
  • appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix)
  • pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • abscesses (a localized area of infection)
  • adhesions (bands of scar tissue that are formed after surgery)
  • diverticulitis (inflammation of intestinal sac-like structures)
  • intestinal perforation
  • ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy occurring outside of the uterus)
  • foreign bodies
  • internal bleeding caused by any kind of injury

Procedure for exploratory laparotomy

The exploratory laparotomy procedure starts with a general anesthetic. In general anesthetic the patient remain unconscious and feels no pain and the muscles remain relaxed throughout the procedure. The first incision is made into the skin and scalpel is used to cut the superficial layers of skin. This incision can be median, para-median, transverse, T shaped or curved depending on the requirement of the surgery. The incision continuous through the fat tissues and abdominal muscles of the abdomen and reach through the peritoneum.

The surgeon examines the abdominal cavity for any infection, inflammation, perforation, abnormal growths, bleeding or any other medical conditions. If any infection or presence of fluids, blood, or bile are detected they confirm the presence of any disease.

Once any abnormality is detected after the examination then the surgeon has the option to treat the patient during the surgery. On the other hand, samples of various tissues and fluids present in the abdomen are collected for future investigation.

 If no abnormalities are detected during the explorative laparotomy then the abdominal organs are placed to their normal position. The incisions are then stitched closed. The layers of the abdominal walls are sutured in reverse order from that of above layers and the skin incision are closed with staples.