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The information contained on this page is provided as general health information and is not intended to substitute as medical advice and direction from your physician or health care provider. Please direct any questions related to your health care provider. In an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency center.


Abdominal exploration

Definition

Abdominal exploration is surgery to look at the organs and structures in your belly area (abdomen). This includes your:

  • Appendix
  • Bladder
  • Gallbladder
  • Intestines
  • Kidney and ureters
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen
  • Stomach
  • Uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (in women)

Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy.

Alternative Names

Exploratory surgery; Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy

Description

Exploratory laparotomy is done while you are under general anesthesia. This means you are asleep and feel no pain.

The surgeon makes a cut into the abdomen and examines the abdominal organs. The size and location of the surgical cut depends on the specific health concern.

A biopsy can be taken during the procedure.

Laparoscopy describes a procedure that is performed with a tiny camera placed inside the abdomen. If possible, laparoscopy will be done instead of laparotomy.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Your health care provider may recommend a laparatomy if imaging tests of the abdomen, such as x-rays and CT scans, have not provided an accurate diagnosis.

Exploratory laparotomy may be used to help diagnose and treat many health conditions, including:

Risks

Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general include:

  • Reactions to medicines, breathing problems
  • Bleeding, blood clots, infection

Risks of this surgery include:

  • Incisional hernia
  • Damage to organs in the abdomen

Before the Procedure

You will visit with your provider and undergo medical tests before your surgery. Your provider will:

  • Do a complete physical exam.
  • Make sure other medical conditions you may have, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart or lung problems are under control.
  • Perform tests to make sure that you will be able to tolerate the surgery.
  • If you are a smoker, you should stop smoking several weeks before your surgery. Ask your provider for help.

Tell your provider:

  • What medicines, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements you are taking, even ones you bought without a prescription.
  • If you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day
  • If you might be pregnant

During the week before your surgery:

  • You may be asked to temporarily stop taking blood thinners. Some of these are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), vitamin E, warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or ticlopidine (Ticlid).
  • Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.
  • Prepare your home for your return from the hospital.

On the day of your surgery:

  • Follow your provider's instructions about when to stop eating and drinking.
  • Take medicines your provider told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • Arrive at the hospital on time.

Outlook (Prognosis)

You should be able to start eating and drinking normally about 2 to 3 days after the surgery. How long you stay in the hospital depends on the severity of the problem. Complete recovery usually takes about 4 weeks.

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Digestive systemPelvic adhesionsAbdominal exploration - series

References

D'Souza RE, Novell R. Laparotomy: elective and emergency. In: Novell R, Baker DM, Goddard N, eds. Kirk's General Surgical Operations. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 4.

Squires RA, Carter SN, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 45.