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Abdominal Exploration

Alternate Names

  • exploratory laparotomy
  • exploratory laparoscopy
  • Digestive system

Definition

An abdominal exploration, also known as a laparotomy, is a surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to look and to make needed repairs or changes inside the abdominal cavity.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

An exploratory laparotomy is often done when a person complains of abdominal pain. It can also be performed after an injury to the abdomen. The operation allows the surgeon to examine internal organs. Disease or damage can be uncovered. In some cases, the problem can be corrected during the surgery.

How is the procedure performed?

There are two methods for performing an abdominal exploration:
  • laparoscopy. In this procedure, the surgeon uses a camera on the end of a long tube, called a laparoscope. The laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen.
  • laparotomy. This is a surgical procedure in which a large incision is made in the abdomen to allow the surgeon to view the interior directly.
Both procedures require general anesthesia. Medications are given so that the person is unconscious, feels no pain, and has no awareness of the procedure. A tube is inserted through the person's mouth into the windpipe. This is connected to a ventilator, or artificial breathing machine.
Once the person is asleep, the surgeon begins the procedure. He or she makes a cut in the skin and enters the abdomen. A large cut is made for a laparotomy. This allows the surgeon to view the organs directly.
In a laparoscopy, the surgeon makes several small skin incisions in different parts of the abdomen. A thin tube with a light and camera on the end of it is inserted through one of the small cuts, and the abdominal cavity is inflated with carbon dioxide. This allows the surgeon to see the inside of the abdomen. Surgical tools are inserted through the other incisions. This lets the surgeon move or cut tissues when needed. In both procedures, the surgeon looks at the abdominal organs. These include the intestines, liver, stomach, spleen, and pancreas. If a problem is identified, the surgeon will try to fix it at that time if feasible.

Sources

Principles of Surgery, 1999, Schwartz et al.

Textbook of Surgery, 1997, Sabiston et al.

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