Abdominal exploration is surgery to examine the contents of the abdomen. Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy. Laparotomy may also be done to treat certain health problems and conditions.
Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy
An abdominal exploration (laparotomy) is done while you are under general anesthesia, which means you are asleep and feel no pain during the procedure. 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 issue.
A biopsy can be taken during the procedure.
Laparoscopy describes a group of procedures that are performed with a camera placed in the abdomen. If possible, laparoscopy will be done instead of abdominal exploration.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
The abdomen contains many organs:
- Kidneys, ureters, and bladder
- Large intestine (colon)
- Small intestine (jejunum and ileum)
- Uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (in women)
Abdominal exploration may be used to help diagnose and treat many diseases and health problems, including:
- Cancer of the ovary, colon, pancreas, liver
- Hole in the intestine (intestinal perforation)
- Inflammation of the appendix (acute appendicitis)
- Inflammation of an intestinal pocket (diverticulitis)
- Inflammation of the pancreas (acute or chronic pancreatitis)
- Liver abscess
- Pockets of infection (retroperitoneal abscess, abdominal abscess, pelvic abscess)
- Pregnancy outside of the uterus (ectopic pregnancy)
- Scar tissue in the abdomen (adhesions)
Risks of any anesthesia include the following:
- Severe medication reaction
- Problems breathing
Risks of any surgery include the following:
Additional risks include incisional hernia.
After the Procedure
The outcome from surgery depends upon the findings.
You should be able to start eating and drinking normally about 2 - 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.
Reviewed By: Shabir Bhimji, MD, PhD, Specializing in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Midland, TX. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.