Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure which is almost always performed in an operating room. General anesthesia is commonly used to allow the patient to be relaxed and asleep. Before placing the laparoscope through the abdominal wall, carbon dioxide gas is placed into the abdomen to elevate the abdominal wall and to help protect the internal organs from injury. Then, the laparoscope, which is about the thickness of a pen, is placed through a small ½ inch incision below the belly button.
The doctor examines the outside of the uterus, tubes, ovaries, and surrounding organs, often including the liver and parts of the intestines as well. Colored dye can be inserted through the cervical canal, which helps the doctor see the condition of the tubes. Conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, previous tubal infection or scarring, tubal pregnancy, and adhesions from previous surgeries or infections can be seen at this time. Often, many of these conditions can be treated during laparoscopy.
Risks include bleeding, infection, damage to internal structures, and anesthesia problems. On the rarest of occasions, excessive internal bleeding or other complications may require additional open surgery. Mild shoulder pain, vaginal bleeding, and some cramping are common after effects. Most women return to their usual activities within 72 hours after the procedure. Laparoscopy is usually performed during the first half of the menstrual cycle in order to avoid interfering with a possible pregnancy.