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What is Laparoscopic Surgery?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Laparoscopic surgery is a surgical technique in which the surgeon uses a series of small incisions in the patient to insert a camera to view the surgical field, along with the necessary tools for the surgical procedure. This type of surgery is radically different from traditional open surgery, and it has become a preferred surgical technique in many situations, because the healing time for laparoscopic surgery is much shorter than that for open surgery, which makes it better for patients.

In laparoscopic surgery, the doctor uses a specialized camera called a laparoscope. The camera and an attached light are inserted through a small incision to view the surgical site, with a monitor displaying a magnified version of the site for the surgeon to use as a reference during the surgical procedure. Once the camera is in place, other incisions can be made to introduce surgical tools which will be used to manipulate the site.

To make the surgical field easier to see, the area may be inflated with carbon dioxide gas, making more room for the surgeon to maneuver while clearing the surgical field for better visibility. After the surgery is complete, the gas will be vented, and the incisions will be sewn shut.

From the point of view of a surgeon, performing laparoscopic surgery can be tricky, but it has some definite advantages. The reduced healing time increases patient comfort, and decreases the risk of infection and the onset of blood clots. Getting patients mobile as quickly as possible after surgery is a major goal for many surgeons, and laparoscopic surgery helps to accomplish this. This surgical technique also reduces the need to cut through muscle to reach surgical sites, keeping patients in better condition so that they feel more comfortable after surgery.

For patients, the shorter healing time involved in a laparoscopic procedure is definitely an advantage, reducing discomfort, hospital stays, and expenses. The minimal scarring may also be appreciated. In an abdominal procedure, for example, four to six small incisions might be made, instead of a single long incision going all the way across the abdomen. The elimination of disfiguring scars is also accompanied with a reduction in cuts of muscle and fascia to reach surgical sites, reducing pain deep inside the surgical site.

This surgical technique is not always an option for all surgeries, but it is certainly worth discussing with a surgeon. If laparoscopy is appropriate for a patient, a surgeon can provide counseling about the procedure and a referral if necessary.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Aug 09, 2012

I know this might sound kind of vain, but I am just as concerned with the look of a scar after a surgery as I am the recovery time. The last thing I want is scars on my stomach, and with a laparoscopic surgery these are barely noticeable.

In my opinion, this is better all the way around. Not only do you not have to worry about feeling sore for a long time, but you also feel more confident because you don't have a long scar across your body.

By LisaLou — On Aug 08, 2012

When I had a laparoscopic hernia surgery I was told I would be out of the hospital the same day. If you have ever had a traditional surgery before, this sounds almost too good to be true.

This is definitely the way to go, and though nobody ever looks forward to surgery, this is so much better than it ever used to be.

By SarahSon — On Aug 08, 2012

@bagley79-- You are fortunate you were able to have the laparoscopic surgery. I have only had one surgery in my life, and they were not able to do this with a laparoscope.

Before going into surgery they told me this was their first choice, but if they ran into any complications, they would have to do an open surgery.

I was hoping for the best, but they ended up not being able to accomplish what they needed to with a laparoscopic surgery.

By bagley79 — On Aug 07, 2012

I had a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery which was no comparison to the traditional hysterectomy surgery I had years ago. Everyone told me how much shorter the recovery time would be, and they were right.

Instead of taking 6 weeks off work, I was back to work in less than 2 weeks. It still took me awhile to be completely recovered, but I just took things slow and didn't overdo it.

I can see why this has become some a popular way of doing surgery. You don't have to stay in the hospital as long, and can also get back to your normal way of life a lot sooner.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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