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Abdominal exploration

Definition

Abdominal exploration is surgery to look at the organs and structures in your belly area (abdomen). This includes your:

  • Appendix
  • Bladder
  • Gallbladder
  • Intestins
  • Kidney and ureters  
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen
  • Stomach
  • Uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (in women) 

Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy.

Alternative Names

Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy

Description

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

Your doctor may recommend a laparatomy if imaging tests of the abdomen, such as x-rays and CT scans , have not provided an accurate diagnosis.

Exploratory laparotomy may be used to help diagnose and treat many health conditions, including:

Risks

Risks of any anesthesia include the following:

  • Severe medication reaction
  • Problems breathing

Risks of any surgery include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to nearby structures

Additional risks include incisional hernia.

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.

References

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.


Review Date: 5/16/2012
Reviewed 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.
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