What Barely Anyone Tells You about Laparoscopies
Last updated: January 2022
If you live with endometriosis, you will likely have heard about laparoscopies. These procedures are the current standard when diagnosing the disease since adhesions often can occur deep in the body, hide behind other organs, and go undetected during imaging tests.
Additionally, any surgical treatment, whether it involves excision or ablation, will generally be laparoscopic. Also known as keyhole surgery, it allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis, without having to make large incisions.
I’ve had two laparoscopies. Prior to each procedure, I did as much research as I could, but found very little online. In the UK, where I had both surgeries, my doctors gave me some leaflets that assured me that within a couple of days after my laparoscopy, I’d be up on my feet. On the NHS website, it says “You'll probably be able to resume your normal activities within 5 days".1
Except, when it came to my own recovery, those timelines didn’t match my reality.
Recovering from a laparoscopy can take much longer
After both laparoscopies, I was only able to sit up, after a day or two. I required 24/7 care since I was unable to stand in the kitchen to prepare any meals or get up to go to the bathroom unassisted. I managed to walk around on day five, yet still, having to occasionally lean on walls and my partner to ensure I didn't hurt myself.
It took more than a week until I was strong enough to move around without any support. It took two weeks for me to drive my car for a short ride. After three weeks, I was mobile enough to walk my dogs, and begin to think about exercise in the near future.
Then, it’s the emotional toll no one tells you about
During recovery, we are required to stay inactive and horizontal. If recovery takes longer than expected, feelings of anxiety can easily arise. In my case, being bedridden for almost two weeks, I felt guilty. Surely, there was something wrong with me if it was taking me this long to recover.
Many endometriosis patients suffer from heightened levels of stress. As a patient myself, I understand that they’d rather avoid us worrying excessively about a procedure they considered quite routine.
Yet, these “minimally invasive” procedures seem to be harder to process for many of us
Laparoscopies involve general anesthetics, being pumped with gas (hello, shoulder pain), and multiple stitches. It can be an intense experience.
Speaking to other endometriosis patients, including members of this community, I found similar accounts. Many struggled enormously with their recovery, not just physically, but emotionally. Why are current guidelines so conservative when it comes to recovery times? Is this happening because of a lack of research? Or is it because endometriosis is considered a female health issue, so any struggle or pain is dismissed?
Just some years ago, we had research pointing towards biomarkers that meant the disease could be diagnosed without a laparoscopy. However, those advances aren't been offered to patients.
I believe that endometriosis patients deserve better. Laparoscopies can have a huge physical and emotional impact. It’s time this is recognized. We need medical treatments that don’t traumatize us further. Laparoscopies are not small, minuscule procedures. They can be an ordeal for millions of us, who have to go through just to diagnose our pain. Isn’t it time for things to improve?
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