What is a pelvic laparoscopy?

A pelvic laparoscopy, also known as an exploratory laparoscopy or gynecologic laparoscopy, is a minimally invasive gynecologic procedure used to examine your reproductive organs and treat pelvic diseases. A pelvic laparoscopy is performed using a laparoscope — a long, thin tube that has a high-intensity light and a camera.

During a pelvic laparoscopy, your doctor will make several small incisions, as opposed to making a larger incision with open surgery, to insert a laparoscope.

A pelvic laparoscopy offers the advantages of shorter recovery period, less blood loss, and less post-surgical pain.

Who is a candidate for pelvic laparoscopy?

Although pelvic laparoscopy is an effective treatment, it is not appropriate for all patients. Your doctor may recommend less invasive treatments such as hormone therapy first. You may be a candidate for a pelvic laparoscopy if you have any of the following conditions or symptoms:

  • Intense abdominal pain that is caused by endometriosis
  • Symptoms of endometriosis that have reappeared after hormone therapy
  • Endometriosis that potentially is interfering with the bladder, bowel or other organ
  • Infertility that is thought to be caused by endometriosis
  • Ovarian endometrioma - a mass that is detected on the ovary

What are the risks of pelvic laparoscopy?

Although not common, complications can occur during a pelvic laparoscopy. The most common complications are bleeding and infection.

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor right away:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Heavy menstrual flow
  • Clots in menstrual flow
  • Fever or chills
  • Abdominal pain that is intensifying
  • Sustained nausea or vomiting
  • Inability to catch your breath
  • Redness or swelling at the incision sites
  • Damage to internal organs

Rarely, more serious complications can occur. More serious complications associated with a pelvic laparoscopy include:

  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Infection in the abdomen
  • Blood clots that travel to other areas of the body such as the pelvis, legs, lungs, heart or brain
  • Need for a blood transfusion

What to expect during a pelvic laparoscopy?

A pelvic laparoscopy can be performed in a hospital or outpatient clinic under local or general anesthesia. During the procedure, your doctor will make an incision in your abdomen and insert a cannula into the abdominal cavity to expand it with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide will help your doctor see the pelvic area better and give him or her more room to perform the procedure.

Once the area is adequately expanded, your doctor will make as many as four small incisions in the abdomen near the naval. The doctor will insert the laparoscope and other surgical tools into the incision. If the procedure is being performed to diagnose a pelvic disorder, your doctor will examine all the pelvic organs for disease.

If the procedure is being performed as a treatment, your doctor will perform the necessary procedure using images from the camera on the laparoscope that are being projected onto a nearby screen as a guide. Once the procedure is complete, your doctor will remove the instruments and gas from your body and close the incisions using stiches and bandages.

Recovery from pelvic laparoscopy

Depending on the type of anesthesia used, your body’s reaction to the procedure and your overall health, you could either be discharged the day of the procedure or monitored overnight.

Directly following the procedure, you will be moved to a recovery area. Your Mercy Health care team will monitor your vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse and breathing rate.

When you are ready to be discharged, your doctor will give you discharge instructions that include:

  • You will not be allowed to drive home, so it is important to coordinate transportation.
  • You may experience side effects such as pain and throbbing at surgical sites, a sore throat or abdominal bloating or discomfort.
  • You should not lift anything heavy for at least three weeks after the procedure.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions in regard to when you can resume your daily activities.
  • Schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor two weeks after the procedure.

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