Abdominal exploration is surgery to look at the organs and structures in your belly area (abdomen). This includes your:
- Kidney and ureters
- Uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (in women)
Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy.
Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy
Exploratory laparotomy is done while you are under general anesthesia, which 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 group of procedures that are performed with a camera placed in the abdomen. If possible, laparoscopy will be done instead of laparotomy.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Exploratory laparotomy may be used to help diagnose and treat many health conditions, 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:
- Damage to nearby structures
Additional risks include incisional hernia.
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.
Martin RS, Meredith JW. Management of acute trauma. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 18.
Squires RA, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 47.
Last reviewed 5/16/2012 by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Ann Rogers, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery; Director, Penn State Surgical Weight Loss Program, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
- The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
- A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.
- Call 911 for all medical emergencies.
- Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.