An exploratory laparotomy is a surgical procedure that allows the examination of your abdominal organs. Your surgeon will make one incision, cutting through the abdominal skin and muscle to reveal your organs. This can help your medical team diagnose and treat various abdominal and digestive conditions.
At A Glance: Laparotomy
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Tell Me About The Surgery
Procedure Research and Consultation
How is a laparotomy done?
During a laparotomy, a long incision will be made in your abdomen so your surgeon can inspect your organs for damage or disease. There are a variety of places that the incision can be made, and the exact location will depend on the problem you’re trying to diagnose. A biopsy might also be taken. If the cause of your medical problem can be determined during the surgery, your surgeon might treat it as a part of the procedure. Your incision will then be closed with sutures or staples, and a temporary drain to allow excess fluids to flow out might be installed.
What issue does a laparotomy solve?
A laparotomy doesn’t solve medical problems, but it helps your medical team diagnose them.
Do I have options for anesthesia for laparotomy surgery?
General anesthesia is usually used for laparotomy surgery.
How do I know if laparotomy surgery is right for me?
If you have undiagnosed abdominal pain, internal bleeding, or a range of other undiagnosed abdominal problems, your medical team might recommend this investigative surgery.
How safe is laparotomy surgery?
Laparotomy is considered a safe procedure, but there are risks. You should also know that Hancock Regional Hospital has been rated one of the safest hospitals in America by The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit health care watchdog organization; and was named the safest hospital in Indiana on the Lown Institute Hospital Index.
What are possible side effects and complications of laparotomy surgery?
Some of the possible side effects and complications associated with laparotomy surgery include swelling; hemorrhage; infection; damage to your internal organs; formation of internal scar tissue; abdominal pain; and bowel blockages.
What are the possible side effects of general anesthesia?
Some of the possible side effects of general anesthesia include nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, bruising (from the IV), itching, shivering and feeling cold, difficulty urinating, and sleepiness. In older patients, memory loss and temporary confusion are possible.
What are the alternatives to laparotomy surgery?
Alternatives to laparotomy surgery include laparoscopy, or keyhole surgery, where surgeons explore the abdominal cavity through small incisions.
What should I bring to my first appointment with a surgeon to talk about a laparotomy?
Insurance informationMedical records, including your medical history, from your primary care physician and any specialists you’ve seenYour most recent diagnostic labs and imaging (Not sure where to go? Check out Gateway Hancock Health, where you’ll be able to get in and out quickly and pay, on average, 70% less than you’ll pay at a hospital.)
Consultation and Choosing A Surgeon or Surgical Team
Do I need a referral to see a surgeon about laparotomy surgery?
Your health insurance provider may require you to get a referral from your primary care provider to see a surgeon about laparotomy surgery.
Do I have to get a second or third opinion for laparotomy surgery?
You can always get a second or third opinion, but it isn’t required.
How should I decide which surgeon’s advice to follow?
You should work with the surgeon with whom you feel comfortable, whether that’s one of our surgeons or not.
Will the surgical team know my health history?
Your health history will be compiled and available to the team before, during, and after surgery. If you’re a Hancock Health patient, we will be able to access your records within our system. If you aren’t, we’ll work with your doctors to get the necessary information.
Why might I have to wait to schedule a laparotomy?
In some cases it takes time for a patient’s body to be ready for surgery. For example, if you have another medical issue including another surgical procedure or an illness, we might wait to schedule surgery. Your health and safety are our top priorities, so we schedule surgeries when they’re best for our patients. If you smoke, it may be necessary for you to stop and wait for a period of time before your procedure, as smoking can impede the healing process.
Insurance & Cost
Will insurance cover a laparotomy?
Health insurance usually covers laparotomy surgery, but you might be responsible for co-payments and any deductible. To obtain your possible out-of-pocket expenses, use our Price Estimator Tool.
How much does laparotomy cost?
Consult the Price Transparency Tool at HancockRegionalHospital.org for an idea of how much laparotomy surgery might cost.
Will Medicare cover laparotomy?
Medicare parts A and B will cover the cost of laparotomy surgery, but it’s important for your doctor to indicate that the surgery is medically necessary.
What are payment options like for laparotomy at Hancock Health?
Hancock Health is committed to helping make great care affordable for all patients. To find out more about payment options, please visit the billing and insurance FAQ page at HancockRegionalHospital.org.
Pre-op and Day of Surgery
How should I prepare for a laparotomy?
In the days before your procedure, you may be asked to get lab tests and a medical evaluation. Immediately before the surgery, you may also be asked to empty your bowels with an enema or in another way. You will probably also be asked to shower with a surgical scrub lotion and not to shave your abdominal area (Your medical team will shave the area). Your surgeon will also likely tell you not to eat anything after midnight on the day of your surgeries. (Not sure where to go to get your lab tests? Check out Gateway Hancock Health, where you’ll be able to get in and out quickly and pay, on average, 70% less than you’ll pay at a hospital.)
Why can’t I eat before surgery?
There’s a risk of aspiration, which means breathing foreign objects, like food or saliva, into your lungs. This can occur because the anesthetic for surgery can impair your body’s ability to stop the contents of your stomach from entering your lungs.
What should I expect right before laparotomy surgery?
You’ll arrive two hours before your surgery and be escorted to the preoperative waiting area.You’ll remove all of your clothing and jewelry. (Your valuables will be placed in a secure area or may be given to a family member.) If you didn’t shower at home with a surgical scrub, you’ll be asked to.You’ll put on a hospital gown.You’ll sign any necessary paperwork and a preoperative nurse will take your vital signs, review your medications, and answer any questions.You’ll meet the members of your surgery team. They will mark the location of your surgery on your body. An I.V. (intravenous line) will be placed in your hand or arm, so medications—including general anesthesia—can be administered. When it’s time for your surgery, you will be wheeled into the operating suite on a stretcher.
Will I need someone to take me home after laparotomy surgery?
You will likely stay in the hospital for several days following your procedure, but you’ll need someone to drive you home when you are released. We’ll help you arrange a ride home if you don’t have one.
Why are there so many people on my surgery team?
In addition to the surgeon, you have an anesthesiologist, nurses—some of them specialize in working with patients and others assist the surgeon—and support staff, who will check you in and out, compile your records, and more. They all work together, performing their individual jobs, so your procedure is as successful as possible.
Why am I asked for my name and date of birth every time I get medicine?
It’s a safety precaution to make sure you’re receiving the medication that’s prescribed for you.
What do I need to bring to the hospital the day of my laparotomy?
You should bring the items you’ll need for a hospital stay including your robe and slippers, toiletries, glasses, loose clothing, and something to keep you entertained—possibly reading material and your headphones. A neck pillow and portable charger for your phone can come in handy, too.
How long does it take the anesthesia to wear off?
It takes about an hour for general anesthesia to wear off, but you may notice the effects for a day or so.
What will happen during laparotomy surgery?
As you are anesthetized and breathing oxygen through a mask, your surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen and look inside to diagnose your condition. A biopsy might be taken and, if the cause of your medical problem can be determined, your surgeon might treat it as a part of the procedure. When the procedure is complete, your incision will be closed.
When will my family be informed about how I’m doing?
Our associates will get information from the surgical team in the operating room during your surgery and keep them updated.
How long does a laparotomy take?
A laparotomy can take one or more hours—the length of time the surgery takes depends on your condition.
How long will I be under for laparotomy surgery?
You will be anesthetized during the entire surgery, and you’ll wake up soon after the procedure is complete.
How long will I be in the hospital after laparotomy surgery?
You might be in the hospital for a week, or more, depending on your procedure and how quickly you are recovering.
What can I expect right after laparotomy surgery?
You’ll spend an hour or two in the recovery room as the anesthesia wears off and then you’ll be moved to your hospital room.
How will I know if the laparotomy worked?
Your surgeon will discuss your procedure with you, and be able to diagnose your condition.
When will I get to talk to my surgeon after surgery?
You’ll be able to talk to your surgeon immediately after your procedure, while you’re in the recovery room.
How soon after my laparotomy will I be able to get up and move around?
Your nurses will help you get up as soon as possible after surgery—probably a day later.
Will I receive pain medication right after surgery?
You will receive pain medication immediately after the procedure.
How soon after laparotomy surgery can I eat or drink?
You might not be able to eat or drink right away and you might be asked to follow a clear fluid diet for a short time. After that, you’ll probably be able to return to solid foods—but easy-to-digest items, including soups, pudding, and yogurt, are recommended.
Will I need to fill any prescriptions or take medication after my laparotomy surgery?
After you’re released from the hospital, you might have a prescription for pain medication, an antibiotic, anti-nausea medication, a stool softener, or a combination of them.
Recovery and Follow-Up
How should I prepare for my at-home recovery?
Ask someone to spend a week at home with you—especially if you live alone. Prepare to take it easy for two weeks—compile reading material or a list of movies or television shows you’d like to watch. You’ll be instructed to avoid straining, bending, or lifting for two to three weeks.Shop for groceries before your procedure. Your surgical team will be able to give you a copy of your suggested diet.
Will I need any follow-up appointments or procedures after a laparotomy?
Follow-up appointments after your laparotomy depends on how well your recovery is going and the reason the surgery was performed, but you’ll probably have an appointment about two to six weeks after the procedure. Depending on what was discovered during your surgery, you might also have appointments with other members of our care team.
Will there be any scarring or stitches to remove after a laparotomy?
You can expect to have some scarring and you might have some non-dissolvable stitches or staples that will have to be removed at your first postoperative visit.
How do I care for my incision at home?
Avoid lifting anything heavier than five to 10 pounds for six weeks.Don’t scrub the incision area. Just run soap and water over it.After showering, gently dry the incision areas with a clean towel.Wear loose-fitting clothing.Expect some drainage from the surgical site.Avoid removing any steri-strips or skin glue over your incisions. These will disappear with time. If you have stitches, keep them as clean and dry and possible—they will either dissolve or your surgeon will decide when to remove them. Change your bandages regularly, as directed by your medical team.Sleep with your head and chest slightly elevated above the level of your lower body—this will help with swelling. Stay well hydrated. Take short walks each day but don’t return to an exercise routine until your care team approves it.Avoid sexual activity for three to four weeks.
What should I do if I have an emergency or accident after my laparotomy?
Call your surgeon’s office, and, if you’re in need of immediate emergency services, go to the nearest emergency room.
When will I be able to get back to work after laparotomy surgery?
You will be able to return to work in four to six weeks.
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