Exploratory surgery; Laparotomy; Exploratory laparotomy
Abdominal exploration is surgery to look at the organs and structures in your belly area (abdomen). This includes your:
Surgery that opens the abdomen is called a laparotomy.
Exploratory laparotomy is done while you are under general anesthesia. This 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 tiny camera placed inside the abdomen. If possible, laparoscopy will be done instead of laparotomy.
Exploratory laparotomy may be used to help diagnose and treat many health conditions, including:
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general include:
Risks of this surgery include:
You will visit with your health care provider and undergo medical tests before your surgery. Your provider will:
Tell your provider:
During the week before your surgery:
On the day of your surgery:
You should be able to start eating and drinking normally about 2 to 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.
D'Souza RE, Novell R. Laparotomy: elective and emergency. In: Novell R, Baker DM, Goddard N, eds. Kirk's General Surgical Operations. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2013:chap 4.
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: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 47.
Last reviewed on: 2/27/2016
Reviewed by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.