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Exploratory Laparotomy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

Exploratory laparotomy is surgery to look for causes of pain, infection, disease, or scar tissue inside your abdomen. An exploratory laparotomy may help diagnose a medical problem. A problem may be fixed during surgery.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough.
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your incision comes apart.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Call your doctor or surgeon if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your incision is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it.
  • You have constipation or diarrhea.
  • You are vomiting.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for the surgery area:

  • Keep the area covered. You may need to keep the bandage on for 1 to 2 days or until your follow-up visit. After your follow-up visit, you may need to change your bandage 1 to 2 times a day. Ask when it is okay to take a shower or bath.
  • Wash your hands before you care for the area. Use soap and warm water to wash your hands. Handwashing helps prevent an infection.
  • Remove your bandage gently. If the bandage sticks to the surgery area, use warm water on the bandage and lift it off slowly. Lift the edges toward the center of the area. Carefully wash around the area with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Check the area for signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, or pus.

Rest as needed:

You may feel like resting more after your surgery. Slowly start to do more each day.

Follow up with your doctor or surgeon as directed:

You may need to return to have your stitches or bandage removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.