Laparotomy: What you should know

What is laparotomy?

Laparatomy is basically a method for abdominal exploration. It is a major surgical procedure for examination, diagnosis and/or treatment of organs in the abdominal cavity. It involves a large incision through the abdominal wall so that the surgeon gets access to the abdominal cavity. It is also called explanatory laparotomy.

Laparoscopy or minimal invasive surgery is an alternative to laparatomy and is mostly preferred as it involves less risk and low cost. Your doctor will mostly suggest laparotomy or laparoscopy after trying out the other alternatives like MRI scan, ultrasound imaging, CT scans etc.

Why is laparotomy performed?

Laparotomy is a surgical diagnostic procedure to examine the organs in the abdominal cavity. It can be performed on you for different reasons which include:

  • Investigation regarding abdominal pain
  • Investigation of the organs like appendix, bladder, intestines, kidney and ureters, liver, pancreas, spleen, stomach, reproductive organs
  • Examination of any kind of injury or damage in the abdominal organs
  • Biopsy and similar diagnostic requirements
  • Removal of uterus or other reproductive organs
  • Repair of abdominal organs
  • Fibroid treatments and fibroid removal
  • Endometriosis
  • Liver abscess

How is laparotomy performed?

Laparotomy is a surgical procedure done under general anaesthesia. You will be given the instructions that have to be followed before the surgery. A series of tests will be performed to understand the health statistics.

The surgeon will make an incision in the abdominal area. The size and location of the incision will depend on the reason for the procedure and health conditions. Your surgeon will get access to the specific organs through the incision for proper examination. The issue will be fixed at that time itself if possible, or tissue samples will be collected for further investigation. After the task is done, the surgeon will close the muscle wall and overlying skin is sutured.

You will be asked to stay in the hospital for post-operative care and your blood pressure, temperature, heartbeat, wound of incision, and respiratory cycle will be monitored closely for 3-5 days. You will be asked to be on rest for another two to four weeks.

Risks involved in laparotomy

The risks of laparotomy depend on your health condition and reason for the surgery. The possible complications include:

  • Bleeding or internal haemorrhage
  • Infection due to inappropriate care
  • Infection in the incision wound
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Bowel blockages or abdominal pain
  • Urinary system blockage
  • Abnormal scarring
  • Incision hernia

Recovery from laparotomy

The discharge from hospital will depend upon your health situation and underlying conditions. If there are no other complications, you need not have to stay at hospital after five days of surgery. You will be advised to be at rest for another two weeks. The complete recovery will take 4-6 weeks after surgery. You should take special care to avoid infection in the wound. Understand the signs of infection and take immediate support from doctor if you develop any.