Diagnostic Laparoscopy

What is diagnostic laparoscopy?

If you have pain or a mass in your abdomen, you will likely undergo many tests — such as imaging tests, a physical exam and blood tests — to figure out what is causing the problem. Sometimes, these tests still aren’t able to provide a definite diagnosis. In these cases, your doctor may recommend a diagnostic laparoscopy.

Laparoscopy is a type of minimally invasive surgery that involves making a few very small incisions in the abdomen — unlike traditional “open” surgery, which involves one large incision. A surgeon will insert a tiny camera and surgical tools through these openings. The camera is connected to a nearby screen that lets the surgeon see what’s happening inside the abdomen.

Why should I get a diagnostic laparoscopy?

With a diagnostic laparoscopy, the goal of the surgery is to look inside the abdomen and discover the cause of the problem. Sometimes, visualizing the area helps the surgeon determine the cause of pain. In other cases, the surgeon may need to take a tissue sample from a mass for a biopsy.

Diagnostic laparoscopy might be recommended if you have:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • A mass in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Gynecological issues, such as abnormal bleeding or infertility
  • Fluid in the abdomen

You will undergo other tests before having a diagnostic laparoscopy. These might include blood tests and imaging tests, like a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound. These test results will let your doctor know whether a diagnostic laparoscopy is a good next step.

What to expect from diagnostic laparoscopy

Most diagnostic laparoscopy procedures are done under general anesthesia, meaning that you will be unconscious during the procedure. Once you’re sedated, the surgical team will make the incisions and use a special gas to slightly inflate your abdomen. This gives them room to see with the camera.

In many cases, a diagnostic laparoscopy can be combined with treatment. Once the procedure has started and the surgeon has identified the problem, he or she can often treat the problem right then and there.

Once the procedure is over, the gas will be removed, but you may feel some bloating afterwards. Your surgeon will talk about any findings and any follow-up testing or procedures that you might need.