Exploratory Laparotomy

Exploratory laparotomy is an abdominal surgery that is sometimes performed to diagnose abdominal issues.

June 2, 2022

Exploratory laparotomy is an abdominal surgery that is sometimes performed to diagnose abdominal issues.

Some facts about Exploratory Laparotomy:

  • Usually, an exploratory laparotomy is recommended when other testing did not diagnose or fully resolve an issue.
  • Exploratory Laparotomy is done when the cause of abdominal pain or other abdominal symptoms isn't clear despite thorough testing.
  • The entire abdominal cavity will be explored during the surgery to find the source of the problem 
  • Abdominal trauma, Unexplained bleeding, severe pain, unexplained pain and cancer with undetermined spread are some of the reasons to perform this surgery.
  • Cancer, Endometriosis, Infection, Scar tissue, Pancreatitis, Gallstones, Perforation of the intestines and Ectopic pregnancy are some of the conditions that may be discovered during this surgery. 

Preparation for Exploratory Laparotomy:

  • Most of the time, there is not much you can do to prepare for it as an Exploratory Laparotomy is done in emergency situations, like after an accident.
  • However, quit smoking a few weeks before the surgery, make sure all other health conditions are well-managed before surgery, inform your doctor about any other supplements, prescriptions, and over-the-counter medications you are taking and about any possibility of pregnancy, if it is a scheduled surgery.
  • Any history of bleeding disorders or are taking any blood-thinning (anticoagulant) medicines, aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting should be informed to your healthcare provider as you may have to stop taking these medicines before your surgery.
  • Take your medicine with a small sip of water to avoid drinking too much liquid if you do have to take any medications.

Procedure for Exploratory Laparotomy:

  • Your heart and lungs will be checked to make sure it is safe to use general anesthesia as Exploratory laparotomy is major surgery.
  • An intravenous line will be inserted into either your arm or hand and your vital signs will be monitored.
  • A breathing tube or a catheter may also be required for you.
  • A long vertical incision will be made on your abdomen once your skin is disinfected.
  • Inspection of your abdomen will be done by your surgeon for damage, disease or the cause of pain or bleeding.
  • Liver, Kidneys, Stomach, Spleen, Pancreas, Intestines (both small and large), Reproductive organs like your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries, Appendix, Blood vessels, Membranes and Lymph nodes will be examined during the surgery.
  • A sample can be taken for biopsy if any suspicious tissue is found.
  • The surgeon may perform surgery to fix it during the exploratory laparotomy, if they find the cause of the problem. 
  • The incision will be closed by using stitches or staples. 
  • A temporary drain will be attached to let excess fluids flow out.

Recovery from Exploratory Laparotomy:

  • You will be moved to a recovery area after the surgery where you will be closely monitored until you are fully alert.
  • The IV will remain attached for providing fluids and medicines to prevent infection and relieve pain.
  • You will be urged to get up and move around after leaving the recovery area to help prevent blood clots
  • It may take a few days for you to eat or drink normally after this surgery.
  • The catheter and abdominal drain will be removed after few days.
  • Fiber intake is recommended to keep your bowels healthy as you heal.