A laparoscopy, also known as keyhole surgery, is a way to access the abdominal and pelvic cavities for surgical procedures using small surgical incisions.
It is done using long and thin telescopes with powerful optical systems, precise surgical instruments with small tips and energy sources that allow safe dissection of internal organs and sealing of blood vessels. Most common gynaecological operations such as hysterectomies, removal of fibroids, removal of ovaries and ovarian cysts, to name a few, are now usually done via laparoscopy.
An important concept to understand is that a laparoscopy is not the operation itself. It is only the way to get access to the inside of the abdomen and pelvis to perform surgery.
A laparoscopy is done under general anaesthesia. It may require 1 to 4 surgical incisions of about 0.5 cm each. The first one is done inside the umbilicus. The camera is passed through this incision and gas is pumped inside the abdomen to distend it and create room for the instruments. Depending on the complexity of the surgery being done, up to three other incision are made on the sides. A hollow plastic cylinder, called a surgical port or trochar, is inserted in each of the incisions. Through those, instruments can be inserted and removed as required. There is a large variety of ports, instruments and accessories that can be used depending on the requirements of each case.
A laparoscopy provides better visualisation of the abdomen and pelvis than open surgery. The camera can get very close to all areas and magnify the image. The small surgical incisions mean less surgical trauma. The implications are: less pain after surgery, smaller scars, less time spent in hospital, quicker recovery, reduced use of pain killers, less bleeding and lower risk of infections. Laparoscopy is a very well established and safe mode of access to the abdominal cavity with clear advantages over laparotomy (open surgery).
Whenever possible, accessing the abdomen and pelvis via laparoscopy should be the preferred option.
Most laparoscopies are day procedures, meaning one is admitted in the morning of the surgery and is discharged a few hours later. Once the operation is over, you will be taken to a recovery room where you stay while waking up from the anesthetic. A nurse will monitors pulse, blood pressure, pain, etc.
Once reasonably awake and once you had something to eat/drink and passed urine, you will be ready for discharge. You would need to arrange for someone to pick you up from the hospital and drive you home. It is advisable to have a friend or family stay with you for the first 24 hours. As it takes time for the anaesthetic to wear off, please do not drink alcohol, drive or operate machinery for 48 hours after your operation. You should expect some pain, enough to require pain kilelrs for a few days. You can do basic self care activities such as showering, getting dressed, etc on your own. Most women take 7 to 10 days of work afterwards. This varies according to the operation done, type of work and individual recovery. It is also common to have irregular vaginal bleeding for a few days.