Diagnostic Laparoscopy

Identify the cause of pain in abdomen and pelvic area

What Is Diagnostic Laparoscopy?

Diagnostic laparoscopy is a procedure that allows a health care provider to look directly at the contents of a patient’s abdomen or pelvis, including the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, small bowel, large bowel, appendix, liver, and gallbladder.

The parts of the body affected by pelvic support problems include the urethra and bladder, the small intestine, the rectum, the uterus, and the vagina. The urethra and bladder lie in front of the vagina. The bladder receives and stores urine from the kidneys and expels it through the urethra (a short, narrow tube). The uterus is at the top of the vagina. Behind the uterus is a space within the pelvic cavity called the cul-de-sac. This space contains some of the small intestine. Along the back of this space is the rectum, which continues down the back of the vagina and ends at the anus. The perineum is the tissue between the opening of the vagina and the anus.

When Would I need a Diagnostic Laparoscopy?

  • Undiagnosed pain in your abdomen
  • Trouble getting pregnant, infertility
  • Abnormal fluid in your peritoneal cavity
  • An unexplained defect on a liver scan
  • A possible tubal pregnancy or undiagnosed pelvic mass

How should I prepare for a diagnostic laparoscopy?

Plan for your care and recovery after the procedure, especially if you are going to have general anesthesia. Allow yourself time to rest and try to find assistance with your day-to-day tasks. Follow instructions provided by your doctor. No special preparation is needed for local or regional anesthesia. If you are going to have general anesthesia, eat a light meal, such as a soup or salad, the night before the procedure. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day of the procedure. This restriction includes coffee, tea, and even water.

What happens during the procedure?

You will be given a general anesthetic, which will relax your muscles and make you feel as if you are in a deep sleep. It will also prevent you from feeling any pain. Your peritoneal cavity will be inflated with carbon dioxide gas. This expands the cavity like a balloon and helps the doctor see your organs. The doctor will make a small incision in or just below your belly button, put in the gas, and then put the laparoscope through the cut. To look at the pelvis, for example, the surgeon puts another tool through a small cut in the lower abdomen. The doctor guides the laparoscope to explore the area and to look at certain organs. If the doctor finds a growth that should not be there, he or she may use the other tool to take a sample of the growth in order to send it to the lab for analysis. Your doctor may completely remove the growth, perhaps with a laser. When finished, he or she will remove the laparoscope and the second tool and sew up the incisions.

What happens after the procedure?

You may stay in the hospital from one to four hours to recover from the anesthetic and to be observed for problems after the laparoscopic surgery. The anesthetic may cause sleepiness for a while, and you may also experience some shoulder pain and feel bloated. You may notice a change in your bowel habits for a few days. You should avoid strenuous activities such as lifting and rigorous exercise. Ask your doctor how much you will be able to lift, what other steps should be taken and for how long, and when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

This minor surgical procedure may help your doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis without extensive surgery. This is beneficial to you because when compared to major surgery, it requires less recovery time and produces minimal scarring. After conducting this procedure your doctor will be able to decide what further treatments to suggest, such as medication or surgery.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

The following complications from this procedure are very infrequent: damage to internal organs from the instruments used, bleeding, or infection.

For more detailed information on pelvic support problems, symptoms, and treatments please visit The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.