Laparoscopy is the most common procedure used to diagnose and remove mild to moderate endometriosis. Instead of using a large abdominal incision, the surgeon inserts a lighted viewing instrument called a laparoscope through a small incision. If the surgeon needs better access, he or she makes one or two more small incisions for inserting other surgical instruments.
If your doctor recommends a laparoscopy, it will be to:
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View the internal organs to look for signs of endometriosis and other possible problems. This is the only way that endometriosis can be diagnosed with certainty. But a "no endometriosis" diagnosis is never certain. Growths (implants) can be tiny or hidden from the surgeon's view.
Remove any visible endometriosis implants and scar tissue that may be causing pain or infertility. If an endometriosis cyst is found growing on an ovary (endometrioma), it is likely to be removed.
For a laparoscopy, the abdomen is inflated with gas (carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide). The gas, which is injected with a needle, pushes the abdominal wall away from the organs so that the surgeon can see them clearly. The surgeon then inserts a laparoscope through a small incision and examines the internal organs. Additional incisions may be used to insert instruments to move internal organs and structures for better viewing. The procedure usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.
If endometriosis or scar tissue needs to be removed, your surgeon will use one of various techniques, including cutting and removing tissue (excision) or destroying it with a laser beam or electric current (electrocautery).
After the procedure, the surgeon closes the abdominal incisions with a few stitches. Usually there is little or no scarring.
What To Expect After Surgery
Laparoscopy is usually done at an outpatient facility. Sometimes a surgery requires a hospital stay of 1 day. You will likely be able to return to your normal activities in 1 week, maybe longer.
Why It Is Done
Laparoscopy is used to examine the pelvic organs and to remove implants and scar tissue. This procedure is typically used for checking and treating:
Severe endometriosis and scar tissue that is thought to be interfering with internal organs, such as the bowel or bladder.
Endometriosis pain that has continued or returned after hormone therapy.
Severe endometriosis pain (some women and their doctors choose to skip medicine treatment).
There are various ways of surgically treating an endometrioma, including draining it, cutting out part of it, or removing it completely (cystectomy). Any of these treatments brings pain relief for most women but not all. Cystectomy is most likely to relieve pain for a longer time, prevent an endometrioma from growing back, and prevent the need for another surgery.1
Complications from the surgery are rare but include:
Uncontrolled bleeding that results in the need for a larger abdominal incision (laparotomy) to stop the bleeding.
Scar tissue (adhesion) formation after surgery.
Damage to the bowel, bladder, or ureters (the small tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder).
What To Think About
The benefits of laparoscopic surgery compared with open abdominal surgery include less tissue trauma and scarring and smaller incisions along with being able to have an outpatient procedure or a shorter hospital stay and a shorter recovery time.
The skill of the surgeon is critical when surgery is used to treat endometriosis that is causing infertility. The use of a laparoscope, lasers, and some of the operative procedures require additional training for a surgeon. Doctors report varying pregnancy rates after endometriosis surgery.