Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat various medical conditions, including endometriosis.1 A surgeon uses a laparoscope, a long thin tube with a camera on the end, which is inserted into the body under general anesthesia. When used to diagnose or treat endometriosis, the procedure begins with a cannula inserted into the abdomen through a small surgical incision; the area is inflated with gas to provide increased visibility in order for your doctor to survey the abdomen. The laparoscope is then used to examine the pelvic area, take a biopsy, or destroy impacted tissue using heat, lasers or freezing techniques.
When is laparoscopy recommended?
Typically, laparoscopy is performed to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis and/or to treat the condition. For most women, a laparoscopy is an outpatient procedure. Depending on other medical conditions or complications that can arise in any surgical procedure an overnight stay for some may be required.
What to expect during post-op recovery
The post-op experience is different for each person, but rest is the cornerstone of the healing process. The extent of your procedure, side effects of anesthesia, vaginal bleeding, or discomfort from gas can all impact the recovery time. Even though it is an outpatient procedure, everyone needs some help after a laparoscopy.1,2
General anesthesia can make you tired, nauseous, slow, and emotional. Fear and pain are also common. Some women experience moodiness, incision site pain, and abdominal soreness. Extreme shoulder pain is not uncommon because of the gas pumped in to inflate your abdomen. What you eat and drink, along with movement, can help you break up the gas trapped in your abdomen or around your diaphragm.
After a laparoscopy, you will likely have some restrictions on showering, swimming, sex, exercise, bending, and lifting. Your doctor will let you know the appropriate timeframes for resuming normal activities. A follow up visit for evaluation will be scheduled sometime between 2 and 6 weeks after surgery.2
Steps to ease recovery
To make your recovery more comfortable, ask someone to help take care of you. Each person’s experience is different and listening to your body is important. Your doctor will provide guidance on good wound care. Keep your incision clean and limit sun exposure. Use sunblock if the incision area will be exposed to the sun. Most surgeons use dissolvable stiches. You may experience numbness, or a pins and needles sensation around the incision area; this will fade. The incision site can be red and take up to a year for the scar to fade, and feel back to normal. Many women find it most comfortable to wear loose fitting clothing that does not restrict the surgical area.3,4
Getting back on your feet
It can take a week or a month to resume normal activities. Some people are back at work in two days, others two weeks. Note that getting back to work, or caring for your family, doesn’t mean you are fully healed.4 Even if you are feeling well, assistance may be required with heavy tasks so as not to strain the surgical area. Remember that walking around and simple exercise are helpful to the healing process.
There is an emotional component to healing as well. Getting a diagnosis can be upsetting. Hormones can be in flux, causing you to cry, feel anxious or become agitated. Have patience. Within a few weeks the ups and down should subside. Additionally, you may experience heavier bleeding during your first few periods; this is also part of the healing process.4
Don’t be afraid to check with your medical team if you have questions, or if you experience complications such as uncontrolled bleeding, infections, or severe pain.2 There are also support groups and other resources for women who suffer from endometriosis.
Laparoscopy may not cure endometriosis. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that 40 to 80% of women will experience pain again within 2 years of having surgery.1
Nall, R. What to expect from a laparoscopy for endometriosis. Updated online July 16, 2018.https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322469.php. Accessed online September 21, 2018.
Vandergriendt, C.What to Expect from Laparoscopy for Endometriosis. Published October 17, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/health/endometriosis/laparoscopy-for-endometriosis#candidate. Accessed online September 23, 3018.
Johnson, E. Laparoscopy: before and after tips. Published online January 15, 2011. Endometriosis.org website http://endometriosis.org/resources/articles/laparoscopy-before-and-after-tips/. Accessed online September 19, 2018
After Your Laparoscopy. Published online June 11, 2013. https://bostoncenterendometriosis.org/2012/07/03/after-your-laparoscopy/. Accessed online September 20, 2018.