Skip to Content

Exploratory Laparotomy


An exploratory laparotomy is surgery to look for causes of pain, infection, disease, or scar tissue inside your abdomen. An exploratory laparotomy may help your healthcare provider diagnose a medical problem. If your healthcare provider finds a problem during exploratory laparotomy, he may fix it.



  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her 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.

Follow up with your healthcare provider 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.

Wound care:

  • Follow your healthcare provider or surgeon's instructions: You may need to keep the bandage on your incision 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.
  • Wash your hands: Use soap and warm water to wash your hands. Do this before and after you care for your wound. Hand washing helps prevent an infection.
  • Remove your bandage gently: If the bandage sticks to your wound, use warm water on the bandage and lift it off slowly. Lift the edges toward the center of your wound. Carefully wash around the wound with soap and water. Try not to get soap or water directly on your wound. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Ask how to clean your wound after your stitches are removed.


  • Rest: You may feel like resting more after your surgery. Slowly start to do more each day. Rest when you feel it is needed.
  • Prevent constipation: High-fiber foods, extra liquids, and regular exercise can help you prevent constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods are fruit and bran. Prune juice and water are good liquids to drink. Regular exercise helps your digestive system work. You may also be told to take over-the-counter fiber and stool softener medicines. Take these items as directed.
  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. This may help prevent constipation.

Ask when you can bathe:

Ask your healthcare provider when you can take a shower or bath.

Contact your healthcare provider or surgeon if:

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

Seek care immediately or call 911 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.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 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.