What is laparotomy?

Laparotomy or surgical exploration of the abdomen is a surgery that explores the organs and structures of the lower abdomen, such as the appendix, the intestines, the kidneys, the liver, the pancreas, the gallbladder, the bladder, the uterus, etc.

It is performed under general anesthesia and can be simply exploratory or include a surgical procedure if necessary, as is done, for example, in cases of intestinal obstruction. 

What does it consist of?

The general and digestive surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen, from which he observes the organs. If necessary, he can remove a tissue sample (biopsy) for later analysis in the laboratory, especially in suspected cancer cases. The wound will next be closed with sutures or staples by the surgeon.

Why is it done?

Exploratory laparotomy is recommended when an accurate diagnosis is not obtained with medical tests such as X- rays and CT scans. It is useful for diagnosing and treating conditions such as:

  • ovarian cancer
  • ectopic pregnancies
  • endometriosis _
  • gallstones _
  • to acute appendicitis
  • Pancreatitis  or inflammation of the pancreas
  • Diverticulitis  or inflammation of the intestine
  • Intestinal perforations
  • Adhesions or scar tissue in the abdomen
  • abscesses  or infections

Preparation for laparotomy

Before surgery, the specialist will review the patient’s medical history and inform you about the medications that you will not be able to take. He may also order various diagnostic tests to assess whether he can undergo surgery under anesthesia.

The patient may need to eat a diet high in certain nutrients in fiber and fluids or even take laxatives to empty the intestines before the procedure, which reduces the risk of infection of the intestines after surgery.

What is your experience like during the exam?

The intervention does not present any pain for the patient because it is performed while he is asleep under general anesthesia.

The patient will be admitted to the hospital for a few days after the procedure. The doctors will observe his evolution and rule out infections, blood clots, respiratory or intestinal problems.

The risk of clot formation should be controlled, as these clots could break loose and cause a fatal vascular accident, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Advances in laparotomy

The main alternative and advance to laparotomy is laparoscopy, which is a less invasive technique that allows the specialist to observe the area using a camera and lighting system. 

Laparoscopy is safer and with less risk of bleeding and complications and less hospital admission, and a shorter and less painful postoperative period for the patient. Additionally, the scars from laparotomy are noticeably larger and more visible. Therefore, whenever possible, laparoscopy is usually used instead of laparotomy.

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