Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) 


A laparoscope is a small tube that consists of a light source and a camera 

Having an operation

If your GP has suggested you may need surgery, this guide is for you

Laparoscopy is a type of surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen (tummy) and pelvis without having to make large incisions in the skin.

This procedure is also known as keyhole surgery or minimally invasive surgery.

Large incisions can be avoided during laparoscopy because the surgeon uses an instrument called a laparoscope. This is a small tube that has a light source and a camera, which relays images of the inside of the abdomen or pelvis to a television monitor.

The advantages of this technique over traditional open surgery include:

  • a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery time
  • less pain and bleeding after the operation
  • reduced scarring

How laparoscopy is carried out

Laparoscopy is carried out under general anaesthetic, so you will not feel any pain during the procedure.

During laparoscopy, the surgeon makes one or more small incisions in the abdomen. These allow the surgeon to insert the laparoscope, small surgical tools and a tube, which is used to pump gas into the abdomen  this makes it easier for the surgeon to look around and operate.

After the procedure, the gas is let out of your abdomen, the incisions are closed using stitches and a dressing is applied.

You can often go home on the same day you have laparoscopy, although you may need to stay in hospital overnight.

Read more about how laparoscopy is performed.

When laparoscopy is used

Laparoscopy can be used to help diagnose a wide range of conditions that develop inside the abdomen or pelvis. It can also be used to carry out surgical procedures, such as removing a damaged or diseased organ, or removing a tissue sample for further testing (biopsy).

Laparoscopy is most commonly used in gynaecology (the study and treatment of conditions that affect the female reproductive system), gastroenterology (the study and treatment of conditions that affect the digestive system) and urology (the study and treatment of conditions that affect the urinary system).

Read more about when laparoscopy is used.


Laparoscopic surgery is very common and  generally regarded as safe. Serious complications are rare, occurring in just one in 1,000 cases, according to estimates.

Possible complications include:

  • damage to organs, such as the bladder or bowel
  • injury to a major artery
  • damage to nerves in the pelvis

Read more about the possible complications of laparoscopy.

Page last reviewed: 28/02/2014

Next review due: 28/02/2016


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The 10 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

N26 said on 11 October 2014

I had my diagnostic laprascopy about 12 hours ago at the birmingham treatment centre and can say at the moment other than feeling sore where the incisions where made I'm feeling good, I was absolutely terrified of having this procedure and had never been in hospital before.
I was so pleased with the care I received from the minute I arrived I was greeted by a lovely nurse on the adult surgical unit, every nurse on the ward was warm, friendly and completely professional they came to check on me regularly and really put my kind at ease. My surgeon came to speak to me prior to this and was also such a lovely compassionate lady along with her assistant. The anaesthetist came to greet and answered any last minute questions I had. I then went down to theatre at 3, arrived back on to a ward where the staff again could not do any more for me, the staff had changed by this point but all knew everything I had had done and the care was outstanding, I can say my experience was very pleasant if you can say that about an op :/ I just want to thank all of the team who realy work hard and show such a high standard of care.

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clarefixter said on 24 September 2014

Does anyone know the waiting times for such a procedure? I've called so many times no one is answering the number I was given. I've been waiting 9 weeks since seeing the gynaecologist.

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AmyLouise7890 said on 14 September 2014

A week after turning 18 I was rushed into hospital with horrendous abdomen pain, later to be told I was going down for the laparoscopy the following day, Ive never had an operation in which I have had to be put to sleep, that was the only thing that scared the life out of me!! During the operation they had to drain a burst cyst, and remove my angry appendix, I went down at 4pm on Tuesday and Wednesday morning I was up walking to the toilet Wednesday at 7am(with help from the nurse) I was feeling very bruised and sore, and spent the rest of the day in bed I was later discharged that day, for a few days after my stomach felt very heavy and felt like I was carrying a baby! I have 3 keyholes which are now healing perfectly, after a week I am now fully mobile and feeling 100times better, although still lacking energy, napping through the day is becoming a regular thing. Nothing to have worried about the amount of nurses, surgeons and doctors I had by my side was unbelievable, they all know what their doing and nothing could go wrong at all. Good luck to everybody all I can recommend is just rest for the few days after and slowly get back into things.

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KittyGinge said on 22 February 2014

I had a laparoscopy two weeks ago following ectopic pregnancy, had a Fallopian tube removed. Found the operation fine, three small entry wounds approx 4 stitches in total. Post surgery found wind a real problem and very painful, would recommend peppermint tea with soluble aspirin, as codeine can cause constipation not helping with the wind! Was able to go to the loo (number 2) about three days post surgery, but painful due to stomach muscles.
Movement wise, found it difficult to walk for about a week after surgery, so family/ friends will need to help you for a while. Couldn't pick anything heavy up or stretch/twist.
Its only really now I'm starting to feel normal.
About three days after surgery I realised I has an infection in my belly button, which is quite common apparently. Had a strong course of antibiotics which helped about two days later, but I needed to change my dressings about three times a day. After a while I started to get really bad pains when walking, so a step backwards in recovery which was horrible, but I think this was related to the infection, as my stomach was tender to touch, but helped to hold when I tried to walk. A few days later the infection had affected a second wound this time underneath, above my pubic bone. After a few days of dressings changed and antibiotics both are healing nicely. Am going to try driving tomorrow and hope to return to my desk job on Monday.
Hopefully this is good news to those going through first week of laparoscopy and thinking recovery is never going to happen!

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PaP1 said on 14 August 2013

I am 3 weeks post op lap surgery, after having a dermoid cyst removed from my ovary, it was wrapped around my ovary so lost that too. So far recovery has been ok. Overall I found it to be okay and nothing like I had read on the internet.
I was so scared as I read many internet stories which put me off. Luckily I did not have any gas pain after the op, and woke up with moderate cramp pain similar to pain after sit-ups. I stayed overnight and went home the following day, the hardest part is to sit up from flat position but I found to roll on my side was easiest way to get out of bed. I was signed off for two weeks, it was more discomfort, such as trying to get into bed /out of bed and slightly swollen stomach and tender to touch. I had some twinges and occasionally stab/stitch like pain on right side, which has now almost gone. I had three tiny incisions which are now healing. After the first week I was bit concerned about my belly being swollen and very tender on the right side, my doctor referred me to A&E who said it was healing/bruising / gas and slight bowel blockage, this has now gone down, but gave me peace of mind to get it checked out anyway.
I am now starting to get some headaches, but I did take paracetamol / ibuprofen for week half after operation to reduce any inflammation. Although this may be something else as my friend is complaining of headaches too at the moment.

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louisa1990 said on 14 March 2013

I had my laparoscopy yesterday after a year of sick with chronic pain. It was assumed (basted in my symptoms) that I could have endometriosis. My Dr found a 4-5cm cyst on my left ovary which she drained. As happy as I am that I only had a cyst I have no idea why I was in such pain (on morphine daily) for a year. This is a question I will probably never know the answer to but I am so scared the pain will continue. I have many other pains/symptoms so the thought of continued pains leave me with so many questions/consurns. Not only this I have a horrendous headache which has not eased despite my meds (morphine included). It is painful to look at my phone, tv etc and even laying in a quiet dark room has not eased it. Is it normal to feel this way after the op?

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Joss1978 said on 06 November 2012

I am 1 week post surgery, the Laparoscopy found a burst cyst which made an angry appendix and then discovered I have endometreosis. The word pain can not describe what i was in when i was admitted, thank god for the gp who sent me to hospital straight away and thank god also for liquid morphine! I was having panic attacks and could not lie down to be examined (a whaling banshee!). The pain really started the afternoon before and felt like period pain x 15 million! AMAZING staff in Winchester from the moment I got there until I left. Blood tests, urine tests - both showed some sort of infection/abnormality, then x-ray, then drip, tests and questions galore etc...before you know it there is a surgery bed ready to go so there wasn't much time to be worried, great anethatists, explaining everything. The immediate pain post surgery (apart from belly) is your throat (from the tube), you want to cough but this feels like is can't be an option so lots of tea and biscuits, you will sleep sitting up/on your back (i am a front sleeper) so you don't really sleep, painkillers required every 2-4 hours (alternate them!), and shoulder pain from the gas which goes in a day or so. First few days I literally carried my belly around like a 6 month pregnant lady, good days followed bad ones, constipation from co-codymol BUT the after pain is no where near as bad as the pain that got me there, 3 small incisions that have healed well 1 week on (kept dressings on for 2 days at a time). DO NOT underestimate what you do after surgery, a simple walk can wipe me out, you feel ok but you have just had surgery! MAKE SURE you have helpers, I am single without family so I took up the offers of lots of my friends and we had a great time, lots of funny memories in the future! No idea what the future holds with the endometreosis BUT i am so glad it happened now and NOT as I fly out to Australia for Xmas and New Year, and who knows perhaps this is the end to years of savage period pain! Jx

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Smurfette234 said on 09 June 2012

ive had a laparoscopy, yes your hooked upto heart moniters and few other things,the first days it was pretty painfull, had alot of shoulder pain due to the gas they put in, but after that it just becomes more uncomftable than painfull

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samreenshinde said on 12 May 2012

How does a doctor preform a laparascopy? I read there can be more than one incision but are very small- like around 2 inches. Also, is it different if I'm a teenager? I read that they do it under general anesthesia, so they must have you hooked up to a heart monitor right? Has anyone ever had this? Is it painful or just bothersome? Thanks!

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Seviyorumcok said on 20 February 2012

Does anybody know for what reason would the surgeon do an open operation as opposed to a laparoscopy? I know I have the more severe type of Hiayus Hernia because my food is not being digested and the consequences are projectile vomiting which cannot do my espohagus any good because of the acidity from my stomach.

I know I am worrying a lot but if you knew the pain I have been going through and the awful projectile vomiting then I think you would understand.

OMG! listen to me I sound like a right hypochondriac! Even the ambulance guy thought I was having a heart attack - if anyone can let me know I would be ever so grateful thanks

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