What is laparoscopic surgery?
A laparoscopic or keyhole surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery that can be done to diagnose as well as treat medical conditions. It is called minimally invasive since it involves small incisions (surgical cuts) on the abdomen as compared to the conventional “open” surgeries that involve bigger incisions. Since small incisions are used in this type of surgery, the recovery is generally faster. The surgery also has added advantages, such as less pain, bleeding and scarring after the procedure. Laparoscopic surgeries involve the use of a thin, long flexible device called a laparoscope. It has a light source and camera on one end, which enables the surgeon to get a view of the inside of the abdomen and the pelvis on a television screen. Besides the incision for introducing the laparoscope inside the body, the surgery involves making 2 to 3 more incisions on the abdomen through which special kinds of laparoscopic surgical instruments are introduced to carry out the procedure.
How long does it take to recover from laparoscopic surgery?
The time it takes to recover from a laparoscopic surgery depends on many factors, such as
- Purpose of the surgery (whether it is done for diagnosis or treatment)
- General health of the patient
- Age of the patient
- Presence of any other medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease
When done purely for a diagnostic purpose, the patient generally resumes their routine activity within 5 days.
When done for the treatment of medical conditions, the recovery may vary depending on the type of treatment. After a major surgery, such as a laparoscopic hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), removal of the ovaries or removal of a kidney for the treatment of cancer, it may take up to 12 weeks to recover. The patient may be able to resume their activities within 3 weeks of a minor laparoscopic surgery, such as an appendix removal.
The surgeon will be the best person to tell the patient about the approximate recovery time after the surgery, which may vary if complications arise.
What happens during laparoscopic surgery?
- Laparoscopic surgery is performed under general anesthesia, which means the patient will sleep through the procedure and would not feel any pain or discomfort.
- The surgeon cleans the area to be operated on with antiseptic solutions and makes small incisions on the abdomen, which are generally 0.5 to 1 cm long. The number of incisions depends on the purpose of the surgery.
- The surgeon inserts the laparoscope (camera) inside the patient’s belly through one of these small incisions. For a better and wider view of the area to be operated on, a nonreactive gas, such as carbon dioxide, is pumped into the abdomen.
- The surgeon inserts the surgical instruments through the other incisions and removes or repairs the organ of concern.
- After completing the surgery, the laparoscope, instruments and gas are removed from the abdomen.
- The incisions are closed with stitches and dressing is applied.
- The patient is allowed to go home the same day or the next day after the procedure.
What are the complications of laparoscopic surgery?
Laparoscopic surgery is a commonly performed procedure with a low risk of serious complications. Some of the risks of this surgery are
- Difficulty in passing urine
- Bleeding and bruising
- Delayed wound healing
- Wound infections
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins of the legs or the lungs)
- Injury to the bladder/bowel
- Blood vessel injury
- Reactions to general anesthesia
- Risk of gas embolism (entry of gas bubbles inside the veins or arteries)
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