Introduction 

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.

Safety

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.




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

Page last reviewed: 28/02/2014

Next review due: 28/02/2016