A laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that looks inside your stomach or pelvis. Healthcare providers use laparoscopies to diagnose medical conditions or perform surgery. Surgery using a laparoscope is called laparoscopic surgery. It’s generally safer than traditional surgery because it’s less invasive.


Surgeon doing laparoscopic surgery on uterus using laparoscopic instruments, a camera and a viewing screen.
During laparoscopic surgery, providers use specialized instruments to do procedures through small incisions in your belly.

What is a laparoscopy?

A laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure your surgeon does to look for problems in your stomach or pelvic area. They use a tool called a laparoscope, which is a thin, telescopic rod with a video camera on the end. Your surgeon puts the laparoscope through a small cut (incision) in your belly (abdomen) measuring half an inch or less. Surgeons may make up to three more cuts to insert other surgical instruments so they can see all the organs in your belly and find any problems.

The laparoscope camera projects an image of the inside of your belly or pelvis onto a monitor in real time. Using these images, surgeons can watch their hand motions during the procedure.

Your healthcare provider might recommend a laparoscopy if other diagnostic tests can’t identify the cause of your condition. Healthcare providers also use laparoscopy to collect tissue samples (biopsies) for testing.

What is laparoscopy done for?

Traditional surgeries best suited for laparoscopic surgeries include:

Is a laparoscopy a major surgery?

Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a minor surgery. Many abdominal procedures can be done as laparoscopic surgeries, but they’re still major surgeries. Your surgeon is the best person to tell you if your procedure is a major surgery, how to prepare for it and what to expect during recovery.

What is the difference between laparoscopy and laparoscopic surgery?

Laparoscopic surgery is similar to a laparoscopy. But instead of looking for medical problems, your healthcare provider uses a laparoscope and surgical instruments to operate on your internal organs. People often use the terms interchangeably.

Healthcare providers use laparoscopies for many common surgeries. More complicated conditions may require traditional “open” surgery through a larger incision. But healthcare providers prefer laparoscopic surgery for a growing list of everyday operations because it costs less and improves surgical outcomes.


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Procedure Details

How should I prepare for a laparoscopy or laparoscopic surgery?

Follow these guidelines before the procedure or surgery:

  • Don’t eat, drink (including water) or smoke after midnight the day before your procedure or surgery.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing. You’ll have some abdominal tenderness and cramping.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes on the day of surgery. You might be drowsy from the anesthesia and unsteady on your feet.
  • Don’t wear any jewelry. (You can wear your wedding ring.)
  • Remove any nail polish before the procedure.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the surgery.

What happens during a laparoscopy or laparoscopic surgery?

You’ll lay on the operating table slightly tilted with your head lower than your feet. Your anesthesiologist will give you general anesthesia to relax your muscles and prevent you from feeling pain during surgery.

Your surgeon will then make a small cut near your belly button or under your rib cage. They’ll insert a gas tube into this incision to fill your belly with gas. Pumping the area with gas makes your organs easier to see on the monitor.

After removing the gas tube, your surgeon inserts the laparoscope. They may insert surgical instruments through incisions nearby to take tissue samples or perform surgical procedures.

Your surgeon will let the gas out of your body once the procedure is over and close your incisions.

A diagnostic laparoscopy usually takes from 30 minutes to one hour. Laparoscopic surgery can take from one to three hours, depending on how complicated your condition is. If the surgeon can’t safely complete the operation using laparoscopically, they may need to switch to a traditional open procedure with a larger incision.

What happens right after the procedure?

After surgery, you’ll usually stay in a recovery room for about one hour while providers monitor your vital signs until you wake up.

Will I be in pain when I wake up?

You may have pain after surgery from small amounts of gas left in your body, as well as internal pain from the surgery or around your incisions. It’s also common to have shoulder pain. Your provider will give you pain medication to make you more comfortable.

Before leaving the hospital, schedule your follow-up appointment so your healthcare provider can check your healing progress.


Risks / Benefits

What are the advantages of laparoscopic surgery?

The advantages of having laparoscopic surgery include:

  • Less trauma to the insides of your belly.
  • Less blood loss and a lower risk of hemorrhage.
  • Smaller scars.
  • Less risk of infection.
  • A shorter hospital stay, which means you’ll be able to recover more comfortably at home. Less time in the hospital is also less expensive.
  • Faster recovery time and return to your usual activities.
  • Less pain during healing, so you won’t need as much pain medication.

What are the possible risks or complications of laparoscopic surgery?

Laparoscopy is a very safe procedure. But healthcare providers still consider it a major surgery. Possible complications include:

  • Bleeding from the incision.
  • Injury to nearby organs and blood vessels.
  • Problems related to anesthesia.
  • Infection.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Blood clots could enter your bloodstream, causing clotting in your legs, pelvis or lungs. They could travel to your heart or brain, where they could cause a heart attack or stroke — but this is very rare.


Recovery and Outlook

What should I do when I get home?

After you get home from laparoscopic surgery, you’ll want to take it easy for at least a day or two. You should follow these steps:

  • Don’t drink alcohol for at least 24 hours after surgery.
  • Keep the incisions clean and dry.
  • Follow the instructions on how to bathe that your healthcare provider gives you.
  • You can remove the bandage the morning after surgery. Steri-Strips™ — which look like tape — can be removed two to three days after surgery.
  • If you have glue on your incisions, leave the glue until it falls off. Pat dry after a shower.
  • Don’t worry if your urine (pee) is green. Your surgeon might have used a blue dye to check if your fallopian tubes are open.
  • It may take a few days before you can poop as usual.

How soon can I go back to work?

You can usually return to work three days after surgery, but check with your healthcare provider to be sure. If you need a doctor’s letter excusing you from work, please ask for one at your preoperative appointment.

When can I start exercising again?

Usually, you can start exercising again about a week after laparoscopy. But the type of surgery you have will also make a difference. Check with your healthcare provider to be sure.

When can I start having sex again?

When you can start having sex after laparoscopy depends on the type of laparoscopic procedure you have. It’s always best to check with your healthcare provider first.

When To Call the Doctor

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever or chills.
  • Redness or swelling around your incisions.
  • Abnormal discharge or bleeding.
  • Vomiting.
  • Problems urinating.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

One of the best things about laparoscopy is that it allows your healthcare providers to see what’s happening inside your body without opening you up. They can do a lot through those tiny holes, but they can’t do everything. Sometimes, they might find something that requires a larger procedure. But most of the time, your surgeon can treat your issues using this minimally invasive procedure.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 03/01/2024.

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