You’ll meet the surgeon carrying out your procedure to discuss your care. It may differ from what is described here as it will be designed to meet your individual needs.
Your surgeon will explain how to prepare for your procedure. For example, if you smoke, you’ll be asked to stop. Smoking increases your risk of getting a chest problem or wound infection and slows your healing. If you’re having a gynaecological laparoscopy to diagnose a condition, you’ll usually have it done as a day-case procedure. This means you have the procedure and go home the same day. If you have a gynaecological laparoscopy to treat a condition, you may need to stay in hospital overnight.
You may be asked not to eat or drink for some hours before your operation. At the hospital, you may have some tests to check you’re healthy for surgery. These include checking your heart function, your blood count and testing your urine.
You may be asked to wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots forming in the veins in your legs. Also, you may be given an anticlotting medicine.
Your surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to understand what will happen. You may want to ask questions about the risks, benefits and any alternatives to the procedure. This will help you to be informed, so you can give your consent for the procedure to go ahead. You’ll be asked to do this by signing a consent form.
Gynaecological laparoscopy isn't suitable for everyone. Depending on your symptoms and circumstances there may be other investigations or treatments available.
An ultrasound or MRI scan can also be used to diagnose some gynaecological conditions such as fibroids. An ultrasound investigation uses sound waves to produce an image of the inside of part of your body. Most commonly, a trans-vaginal ultrasound is used, which involves an ultrasound probe being put into your vagina. An MRI scan uses magnets and radio waves to produce images of the inside of your body.
Your surgeon will recommend the best treatment option for you.
A gynaecological laparoscopy is usually done with general anaesthetic. This means you’ll be asleep during the procedure.
Laparoscopy is a type of ‘key-hole surgery’. It uses a piece of equipment called a laparoscope. A laparoscope is a small telescope with an attached camera, which your surgeon will use to see inside your abdomen (tummy). It’s put through a small cut in your belly button. The procedure can take between 30 minutes and three hours, depending on what type of examination or treatment you need.
Your surgeon will make a cut in your belly button. He or she will then put a tube through the cut and pump some gas in, which expands your abdomen and separates your organs. This makes it easier for your surgeon to look at your organs with the laparoscope and to perform surgery if you need it.
Your surgeon may need to move some of your organs to get a good view. He or she may make one or more small cuts lower down on your abdomen. Any surgical instruments (such as a grasper) that are needed for your treatment can be inserted through these cuts.
At the end of the procedure, your surgeon will carefully take the instruments out of your abdomen and allow the gas to escape. He or she will close the cuts with stitches, clips or glue.
You’ll need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed and may need pain relief to help with any discomfort. General anaesthesia can affect your co-ordination and reasoning skills for 24 hours. During this time, you shouldn’t drive, drink alcohol or make important decisions. If you’re in any doubt about driving, get advice from your motor insurer, and always follow your surgeon’s advice.
You’ll usually be able to go home after a few hours, when you feel ready. You’ll need to arrange for someone to take you home. Try to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after your laparoscopy. Your nurse will give you advice about caring for your wounds, hygiene and bathing. You may be given a date for a follow-up appointment.
Your surgeon may use stitches, clips or glue to close the cuts made during your surgery. If you have dissolvable stitches they will usually fall off after a week. Glue can usually be washed off after seven days. If you have non-dissolvable stitches, staples or clips, you’ll need to have them taken out after about five to seven days. Your surgeon will tell you when and where to have them removed. Often, a nurse at your local doctor’s surgery can do this.
Your surgeon may prescribe painkillers for you to take after your operation. He or she will explain when to take these, and any side-effects you might get. If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine. If you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
Try to get around the house and do a little each day. This will help with your recovery. Listen to your body though – you’ll be more tired than usual during your recovery and may need naps. You should be able to have sex after a few days, when you feel ready, unless your surgeon has given you specific advice.
If you have a laparoscopy to diagnose a condition, you’ll probably be ready to get back to your usual routine (including work) in a week. If you have treatment during your laparoscopy – for example for endometriosis or a hysterectomy – you may need two to three weeks to recover.
If you feel unwell while you’re recovering, contact your GP or doctor for advice.
Each type of laparoscopic procedure has its own risks. We haven’t included the chance of these happening, as they’re specific to you and differ for every person. How risky the procedure is can depend on many things, so be sure to ask your surgeon about how these risks apply to you. In this section, we focus on the possible side-effects of having a laparoscopy. For information about problems that may happen during or after your procedure, see our complications section below.
There’s a chance you may have some side-effects. These are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having your procedure. For example, you’re likely to feel some pain in your abdomen (tummy) and shoulders. Shoulder pain is thought to be caused by the gas used to inflate your abdomen irritating internal structures and nerves. Pain usually improves within a few days.
You may have some bruising around the cuts in your abdomen – this usually gets better without treatment.
This is when problems occur during or after your procedure. The possible complications of any operation include:
- an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic
- excessive bleeding
- developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in your leg (deep vein thrombosis, DVT)
Other complications of having a gynaecological laparoscopy are listed below.
- Other organs in your abdomen (tummy), such as your bowel, bladder, womb or major blood vessels, may be damaged during the operation.
- If there is a complication during your laparoscopy, your surgeon may need to change to open surgery. This involves him or her making a bigger cut on your abdomen.
- Your wounds may not heal properly or they may become infected.
- You may develop a urine infection.
- You may develop a hernia, which is a bulge under the skin. It happens when part of your abdomen, (such as fat or your bowel) comes through your stomach muscle.
Most women don’t have any problems after a gynaecological laparoscopy. But if you develop any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor or the hospital where you had your operation.
- Severe pain or pain that gets worse in your abdomen, especially if you have a fever and are feeling or being sick.
- A hot, red, swollen leg, or difficulty standing on your leg.
- Red or painful skin around your wound.
- Burning or stinging when you urinate, or needing to urinate very often.
- If your symptoms aren’t slowly improving day-by-day
How is laparoscopy different to open surgery?
Laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) uses smaller cuts than open surgery. It means that your scars will be smaller and you may recover more quickly.
Gynaecological laparoscopy (also known as keyhole surgery), involves you having one or more small cuts in your abdomen (tummy). Your surgeon will use a laparoscope to see inside your abdomen and perform your operation. A laparoscope is a small telescope with an attached camera. Open surgery uses a much larger cut, so your surgeon can see directly into your abdomen.
The benefits of laparoscopy over open surgery include:
- your stay in hospital is likely to be shorter
- your scars will be smaller
- you may have less pain.
- your recovery is likely to be quicker
Laparoscopy does have some downsides over open surgery though. For example, you may get pain in your shoulder after the operation. Also, with laparoscopy, it may be slightly harder for your surgeon to see your insides as clearly as if you had open surgery. If they accidentally damage an organ, there’s a small chance they may not spot this. For more information, see our complications section.
Laparoscopy isn't suitable for everyone, for example if you’re overweight or have had previous surgery, then open surgery may be better. Your surgeon will discuss your treatment options with you.
I’m having a gynaecological laparoscopy for sterilisation. What does this involve?
Sterilisation is surgery to stop future pregnancy. It’s a permanent type of contraception. During the procedure your surgeon will block your fallopian tubes so that your eggs can’t travel down them.
Sterilisation is a type of surgery some women have to stop them being able to get pregnant. It’s a permanent type of contraception.
Sterilisation can be performed through laparoscopy. During the procedure your surgeon will block your fallopian tubes using chips or sometimes heat from an electric current. This means your eggs can’t travel from your ovaries down your fallopian tubes. If you have unprotected sex, sperm cannot meet your eggs and you can’t get pregnant.
If you’re considering sterilisation, you’ll usually have counselling first. This is to help you think through the decision and make sure it is not one you're likely to regret in the future.
There are alternatives to having the operation, such as using other forms of contraception or your partner having a vasectomy. A vasectomy is a smaller operation where the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis are cut.
Your doctor can explain more about your options and answer any questions you may have.
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
020 7772 6200
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- For medical practitioners. At a glance guide to the current medical standards of fitness to drive. Drivers Medical Group, DVLA. www.gov.uk, published May 2014
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- Personal communication, Miss Shirin Irani MD FRCOG, Consultant Gynaecologist and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Heart of England Foundation Trust, Birmingham, June 2015
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
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Reviewed by Hemali Bedi, Bupa Health Content Team, June 2015.
Peer reviewed by Dr Shirin Irani.
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