Laparoscopic surgery is different for everyone. Each of us will have a different experience based on our expectations, the extent of surgery, the length of surgery, the surgeon, the facility, the nursing staff, how we respond to pain, and a variety of other factors.
Additionally, each person heals differently. What is true for one person may not be true for another. Medical professionals may tell us it takes only a few days to recuperate from a laparoscopy. Yet most of us have found that true healing takes much longer than that, usually several weeks. Since few resources exist that discuss laparoscopy from a patient’s perspective, the following information was compiled to give women a better idea of what is involved before and after laparoscopy.
Overview of the procedure
Laparoscopy is usually done under general anaesthesia. Generally, a small incision is made near the belly button and the abdomen is filled with CO2 gas. This lifts the abdomen away from the internal organs, giving the surgeon a better view. The lighted laparoscope is then inserted into the abdomen. Two other small incisions may be made in the abdomen so additional surgical instruments, such as a probe to move organs, can be used during the surgery. Many surgeons also attach a video camera to the laparoscope to enlarge the view, allowing the entire surgical team to see the procedure.
During the laparoscopy, the doctor examines the pelvic organs, looking for obvious and atypical endometriosis lesions as well as endometriomas (endometriosis-filled cysts), adhesions, and scarring. Depending on your history and symptoms, the doctor may also look for fibroid tumours or other abnormalities. Other procedures, such as a hysteroscopy (an examination of the inside of the uterus) may also be performed.
Diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis may take place during the same procedure. Your doctor may also remove the lesions to send to a lab for biopsy. This will document the presence or absence of endometriosis.
Length of stay
Laparoscopy is usually done on an outpatient basis, although an overnight stay may be required if the surgery is complex or lengthy. If a bowel resection or partial bowel resection is performed, your hospital stay may be extended by several days. It’s a good idea to be mentally prepared to spend at least one night.
Almost everyone has some fears about surgery. We may worry about the risks, the anaesthesia, the pain, or what the surgeon may (or may not) find. If you’re scared, it helps to determine what you’re afraid of, then work toward minimising that particular fear. For example, if you’re afraid of the anaesthesia, talk with your doctor and the anaesthesiologist before the procedure to discuss your fears. If you are afraid of the pain, ask your doctor exactly how your pain will be managed. Many women have found that relaxation tapes before, during, and after surgery also help allay fears.
What should you take to the hospital?
Pack very loose clothing to wear after surgery, preferably something without a waistband. An oversized pullover dress is ideal. You may also want to take mini-pads, socks, and slip-on shoes or house slippers. If there is a possibility you may be staying overnight, consider packing a hairbrush, lotion, bathrobe, toothbrush/toothpaste, and maybe a stuffed animal.
The surgeon often orders a bowel prep the evening before surgery. The process varies, but usually includes a liquid diet and various preparations to evacuate your bowels. This is not a pleasant process, but it is necessary if any bowel work is anticipated. For more information, see our article about how to survive a bowel prep. Limiting heavy foods and avoiding big meals can help you feel better before and after the procedure
Lose weight, if you’re overweight
Being overweight can increase the risks associated with surgery and anesthesia, and severe obesity can increase surgery time and blood loss. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about the best way to go about losing weight before your surgery.
Stopping or cutting down on smoking as much as possible can help with general anesthesia and recovery from surgery. Smokers may have problems breathing during surgery, and they tend to heal more slowly afterward.
Make sure other medical conditions are well-controlled
If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, or other medical conditions, check with your doctor to make sure they’re under control before you have a hysterectomy. When other pre-existing conditions are managed, Cohen says, surgery is likely to be safer and recovery faster.