Modern medicine has paved the way for several new and less invasive medical procedures thanks to technological advancements. Surgical practices that first required extensive pre- and pro-op preparations can now quickly get done in minimal time and with minor discomfort. One technique that has gained popularity due to these primary characteristics is laparoscopy.
During a laparoscopy, surgeons make small incisions to examine your internal organs or remove tissue samples to run diagnostic testing. This procedure is sometimes referred to as a keyhole or minimally invasive surgery since it doesn’t require large openings in the skin. After making the cut, a thin tube called a laparoscope gets inserted into the patient’s body which helps the health practitioner closely study the organ under investigation. Typically, a doctor examines your abdomen and reproductive organs like the stomach, spleen, gallbladder, liver, uterus, and ovaries using this procedure.
Laparoscopies have become a routine diagnostic technique that helps identify various medical conditions, from malignant cancers to organ or tissue defects. But while it’s generally a safe procedure with little to no complications, you must still plan for it.
So, to help you, here are seven things you should know and prepare for when undergoing a laparoscopy.
1. Know why you need it
There are several reasons why a doctor might recommend you get a laparoscopy. You may need a laparoscopy to detect an injury or infection, or it might even be for accurately staging your cancer. For example, rare cancers like malignant pleural mesothelioma are difficult to diagnose and even more challenging to track their growth. But a laparoscopy procedure significantly improves the chances of detecting a tumor that might otherwise get missed through conventional PET scans.
When you better understand the reason for getting a laparoscopy, you can appropriately prepare for the procedure and ask your physician about all relevant concerns.
2. Discuss your medications
Before scheduling your appointment, your doctor must know about your medications or supplements. You can’t leave out any information, whether it’s over-the-counter medicine or any prescribed pill. Depending on what you typically take, your doctor may change the dose of your medication or provide you with an alternate therapeutic until the end of your procedure. For example, patients with high blood pressure must be extra careful as they typically take anticoagulants or blood thinners that may affect blood clotting. You must also avoid NSAIDs like ibuprofen as they interfere with normal platelet functioning and can increase the risk of extensive blood loss during the laparoscopy.
No detail you give will be irrelevant. And to stay on the safe side, it’s best to let your doctor know whatever treatment regimen you’re on.
3. No meals
As with most surgeries, your surgeon will likely ask you to stop eating and drinking at least 8 to 12 hours before the procedure. If you consume a meal right before the laparoscopy, you might get nauseous or even aspirate the food. It happens when you unconsciously inhale the food in your stomach, causing it to travel back into the esophagus and enter the lungs. It may cause pneumonia or other lung infections in severe cases, making an otherwise safe procedure life-threatening.
More importantly, your abdomen typically gets operated on during a laparoscopy. And so, keeping it empty is the safest way to avoid complications.
4. No smoking or drinking
Besides meals, you must also avoid smoking or drinking alcohol before your laparoscopy appointment. Smokers, especially those with chronic habits, are at a higher risk of complications during or after a procedure. The body needs a healthy and steady supply of oxygen to quickly heal and recover from the incisions made during a laparoscopy. But if you regularly smoke, your blood vessels won’t be able to provide sufficient oxygen to the procedure site. As a result, it might delay healing and make you susceptible to acquiring infections.
You should also stop drinking alcohol weeks before your laparoscopy gets scheduled since it thins the blood and imposes the risk of uncontrollable bleeding. Even if you drank or smoked before the procedure, you must inform your surgeon so they can prepare for whatever complications may arise.
5. Prepare a medical file
With previous test reports, x-ray films, specimen reports, etc., all in one place, it will be easier for your medical team to help you based on your specific needs. In addition, during your diagnosis, treatment, and surgery, several healthcare providers and staff will get assigned to your case. Therefore, it might be helpful to prepare a file beforehand to ensure everyone on the team stays up-to-date and has all your relevant medical data.
This file can also include information about your current and past medications, allergies, and other predisposing medical conditions that may interfere with recovery.
6. Know the risks
Laparoscopy procedures are typically very safe and have only minor complications in rare cases. The pros of accurately diagnosing your medical condition through this procedure far outweigh the cons. However, you must still educate yourself about the potential risks to minimize them and avoid mishaps during or after the laparoscopy.
Some possible complications that may occur are:
- excessive bleeding
- injury to nearby blood vessels or organs
- anesthesia-related complications
- improper blood clotting
- abdominal wall inflammation
For each patient, risks may vary and be more or less severe depending on the gravity of the situation.
7. Follow the guidelines
Although laparoscopies are not as invasive as a traditional surgical procedure, you must still be mindful of what you wear to the procedure room. For example, you must remove all body piercings before coming for your laparoscopy appointment. Avoid new piercings because they can increase the risk of infection, especially near the surgical site. Before your procedure, you must also remove nail polish or acrylic nails when entering the operating room. These can prevent the pulse oximeter from accurately reading your vitals and interfere with monitoring a patient’s health.
The medical facility you go to for your laparoscopy will likely provide you with a hospital gown, so it doesn’t matter what you wear. But you must be careful of following the nail and piercing guidelines to avoid any complications.
A standard laparoscopy procedure usually takes less than an hour. But despite its minimal invasiveness and low-risk rates, the reports from this procedure can be paramount in making an accurate diagnosis. So use this guide to prepare for your appointment, and see how smoothly the entire process goes.