Laparoscopy is a small operation to look inside your tummy (abdomen). Doctors use it to find out if ovarian cancer has spread.
What it is
Your surgeon puts a thin tube with a light and a camera (laparoscope) through a small cut in your abdomen. They’ll check your ovaries and the surrounding area and take tissue samples (biopsies) that can be sent to the laboratory to be examined.
It is also possible to remove the ovaries during this procedure, rather than having an operation with a large cut in your tummy. If you have your ovaries removed, they will be sent to the laboratory to be examined for signs of cancer.
Before your laparoscopy
You go to the hospital 1 or 2 weeks before your laparoscopy to check that you’re fit enough for the procedure. A nurse weighs you and takes your blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
You might also have:
- blood tests
- a heart trace (ECG)
- a chest x-ray
You can ask any questions you might have and sign the consent form.
Preparing for your laparoscopy
Tell your doctor if you’re taking medicine that changes how your blood clots. These medicines include:
- arthritis medicine
Your doctor tells you if you need to stop your medicines or change the dose before the laparoscopy.
You can’t eat for 6 hours before the operation. You might be able to have water for up to 2 hours beforehand. The hospital staff will give you instructions about this.
Tell your doctor if not eating could be a problem for you, for example if you have diabetes.
You usually have a laparoscopy as a day case, so you can go home later the same day.
You have the operation under general anaesthetic. It takes about half an hour.
The surgeon usually makes 2 or 3 small cuts:
- one in or near your tummy button
- on one or both sides of your abdomen
They put a gas (carbon dioxide) into your abdomen. This makes it easier for the surgeon to see the organs there, including the liver, stomach, gallbladder and others.
Your surgeon puts a thin tube with a light and camera attached through one of the cuts. The pictures from this are displayed on a TV screen they can see. They put surgical instruments through the other cuts.
They look for signs of cancer in your:
- lymph nodes
- surfaces of organs
They also take samples of tissue (biopsies) and fluid to send to the laboratory.
Then your surgeon removes the gas tube and instruments and stitches the small holes.
After the laparoscopy
You wake up in the recovery area and then go back to the ward. You might have fluids through a drip in the back of your hand or arm. Once you’re awake and drinking, your nurse takes the drip out. You should be able to eat and drink normally once you feel able to.
You might have some pain in your:
- abdomen for a few days
- shoulder for a day or two due to the gas in your abdomen
You usually have paper stitches over the wounds (Steri-Strips) or dissolvable stitches. You also have a waterproof dressing over them. You can shower or bathe as usual.
You can soak off the dressing and paper stitches 5 days after your operation if they haven’t fallen off already.
Don’t drive for 24 hours after your general anaesthetic. Ask someone to drive you home from the hospital and stay with you overnight.
The carbon dioxide gas may make you feel bloated and uncomfortable at first, but it will gradually disappear over a couple of days.
Getting your results
1 to 2 weeks after the test you should get the results from your specialist. Waiting for results can make you anxious. Keeping busy can help.
Most people won’t have problems from this type of operation. Your doctor makes sure the benefits of having it outweigh the risks, which include:
- a wound infection – this is treated with antibiotics
- bleeding during or after surgery – you might need a blood transfusion or another operation
- a blood clot in your legs (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) – you get up shortly after your operation to reduce the risk of blood clots
- a small hole (perforation) in your bowel wall – this is extremely rare and is treated with antibiotics and fluids through a drip, or surgery to repair the hole
Your nurse will tell you what to look out for. They’ll also give you a number to contact if you have any problems.
When to contact your GP
Contact your GP or the hospital if you have:
- a high temperature or feel unwell
- redness or swelling around your wound or it’s leaking fluid
- pain in your abdomen that is getting worse
- pain or swelling in one or both legs