What is a diagnostic laparoscopy?

A diagnostic laparoscopy, also referred to as a staging laparoscopy, is an operation used to examine the inside of the abdomen. This can sometimes provide more information than a scan. There are several reasons why this procedure might be required:

  • Assess inside your abdomen.
  • To examine a mass in your abdomen.
  • To perform a biopsy (taking a tissue sample for assessment).

The procedure

You will be given a general anaesthetic, which means you will be asleep for the procedure and feel nothing.

A laparoscope, which is a small thin tube with a camera on the tip of it, is used to see inside your body. This is inserted through a small cut made near your belly button (navel). Your surgeon will insert carbon dioxide gas through the laparoscope to inflate your abdomen, to get a clearer view of your organs. Several other small incisions might be made in the abdomen to help facilitate the procedure.

The procedure usually takes 30-60 minutes. If complications occur during the surgery, such as bleeding or bile duct injury, there may be a need to undergo an open operation.

Before your operation

You will be informed if any other tests are required before your laparoscopy such as scans. Your surgeon will also discuss any additional procedures that may be performed during your laparoscopy, such as a biopsy.

You will need to have a pre-operative assessment appointment to assess your medical fitness prior to a general anaesthetic and surgery. You will also sign a consent form for your procedure.

We ask you not to eat anything after midnight the night before your surgery. You may drink sips of water until 6am on the morning of your operation.

You must remove any nail polish before surgery and wear loose-fitting clothing. Wear sturdy shoes on the day of surgery as you might be unsteady on your feet after the anaesthetic.

After your operation

Many patients will go home on the same day as their surgery, but some may need to stay overnight. Wherever possible, patients are required to make their own way to and from hospital appointments. If your medical condition affects your ability to travel independently, contact the hospital transport department to see if you qualify for hospital transport.

You may experience abdominal discomfort or shoulder pain after the operation. This can be managed with oral painkillers such as paracetamol. You may also experience some bloating which usually settles after a couple of days.

The cuts on your abdomen will be covered by steri-strip bandages and/or small dressing, which can be removed after a few days. There can be a small amount of fluid leakage around the wounds at first, however they usually heal quickly.

If you need any advice about your wounds, please contact your specialist nurse. You will be given an appointment about a week after the laparoscopy to discuss the results and ongoing treatment options.

Risks and side-effects

There are risks and complications associated with any surgery. Your doctor will explain the specific risks of this surgery before asking you to sign a consent form. Please ask questions if you are uncertain about anything regarding your procedure.

Rare risks and complications from this procedure include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Injury or leakage of bile from the bile ducts
  • Injury to organs in the abdomen
  • Numbing of the skin around your wounds – this is usually short term (two to three months)
  • Blood clots e.g., deep vein thrombosis
  • Inflammation of the abdominal wall

If you are at an increased risk of experiencing complications, this will be discussed with you beforehand. Please speak to your healthcare team if you are worried about these risks.

Please call your GP or clinical nurse specialise (CNS) if you experience:

  • Fever/chills or feel generally unwell.
  • Increasing redness or swelling of your wound.
  • Excessive oozing from the wound.
  • Worsening pain that is not controlled with painkillers.
  • Swelling in one or both legs.

If you are unable to speak to your GP or specialist nurse, please go to your nearest A&E.