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Exploratory Laparotomy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What do I need to know about exploratory laparotomy?

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.

How do I prepare for surgery?

  • Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day before surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • You may need blood tests, x-rays, and other tests.

What will happen during surgery?

  • General anesthesia may be given to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given regional anesthesia to numb the surgery area. You will be awake with regional anesthesia, but you should not feel pain.
  • Your surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen. The size of the incision will depend on what type of problem the surgeon is looking for.
  • When your surgeon is finished with the laparotomy, he or she will close your abdomen. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples.

What should I expect after surgery?

You will be taken to a room to rest and recover. You will then be taken to your hospital room. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. The bandage over your incision keeps the area clean and dry to prevent infection. A healthcare provider may remove the bandage soon after surgery to check your incision.

  • You will be helped to walk around after surgery. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Movement helps prevent blood clots.
  • Drains may be used to remove blood or fluid from the surgery area.
  • Medicine may be given to prevent or treat pain, nausea, or an infection caused by bacteria.

What are the risks of exploratory laparotomy?

Surgery could cause bleeding, breathing problems, or an infection. Your intestines may slow down after surgery, causing bloating and discomfort. Organs such as your liver, lungs, and spleen could be damaged during surgery. You may develop a life-threatening blood clot. After surgery, scar tissue may grow where the surgery was done. You may also get a weak area around the incision called an incisional hernia.

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Further information

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