Definition

Abdominal exploration is surgery to look at the organs and structures in your belly area (abdomen). This includes your:

  • Appendix
  • Bladder
  • Gallbladder
  • Intestines
  • Kidney and ureters  
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen
  • Stomach
  • Uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (in women) 

Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy.

Alternative Names

Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy

Description

Exploratory laparotomy is done while you are under general anesthesia, which means you are asleep and feel no pain.

The surgeon makes a cut into the abdomen and examines the abdominal organs. The size and location of the surgical cut depends on the specific health concern.

A biopsy can be taken during the procedure.

Laparoscopy describes a group of procedures that are performed with a camera placed in the abdomen. If possible, laparoscopy will be done instead of laparotomy.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Your doctor may recommend a laparatomy if imaging tests of the abdomen, such as x-rays and CT scans , have not provided an accurate diagnosis.

Exploratory laparotomy may be used to help diagnose and treat many health conditions, including:

  • Cancer of the ovary, colon, pancreas, liver
  • Endometriosis
  • Gallstones
  • Hole in the intestine (intestinal perforation)
  • Inflammation of the appendix (acute appendicitis)
  • Inflammation of an intestinal pocket (diverticulitis)
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (acute or chronic pancreatitis)
  • Liver abscess
  • Pockets of infection (retroperitoneal abscess, abdominal abscess, pelvic abscess)
  • Pregnancy outside of the uterus (ectopic pregnancy)
  • Scar tissue in the abdomen (adhesions)

Risks

Risks of any anesthesia include the following:

  • Severe medication reaction
  • Problems breathing

Risks of any surgery include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to nearby structures

Additional risks include incisional hernia.

Outlook (Prognosis)

You should be able to start eating and drinking normally about 2 – 3 days after the surgery. How long you stay in the hospital depends on the severity of the problem. Complete recovery usually takes about 4 weeks.

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