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Abdominal exploration

Definition

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.

Alternative Names

Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy

Description

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:

  • Gallbladder
  • Kidneys, ureters, and bladder
  • Large intestine (colon)
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Small intestine (jejunum and ileum)
  • Spleen
  • Stomach
  • Uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (in women)

Some problems inside the abdomen can be easily diagnosed with imaging tests such as x-rays and CT scans. However, many problems require surgery to get an accurate diagnosis.

Abdominal exploration may be used to help diagnose and treat many diseases and health problems, including:

Risks

Risks of any anesthesia include the following:

  • Severe medication reaction
  • Problems breathing

Risks of any surgery include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Additional risks include incisional hernia.

After the Procedure

The outcome from surgery depends upon the findings.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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.


Review Date: 5/17/2010
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.
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