What do I need to know about this procedure?

A laparotomy is a surgical examination of the inside of the abdomen and the internal organs for any abnormality. This is done through a 15-30cm cut into the abdomen, depending on the size of the abdomen.


This procedure will require an anaesthetic.

What are the risks of this specific procedure?

There are risks and complications with this procedure.
They include but are not limited to the following:

General risks:

  • Bleeding could occur and may require a return to the operating room. Bleeding is more common if you have been taking blood thinning drugs such as Warfarin, Asprin, Clopidogrel (Plavix or Iscover) or Dipyridamole (Persantin or Asasantin).
  • Small areas of the lung can collapse, increasing the risk of chest infection. This may need antibiotics and physiotherapy.
  • Increased risk in obese people of wound infection, chest infection, heart and lung complications, and thrombosis.
  • Heart attack or stroke could occur due to the strain on the heart.
  • Blood clot in the leg (DVT) causing pain and swelling. In rare cases, part of the clot may break off and go to the lungs.
  • Death as a result of this procedure is possible.

Specific risks:

  • Deep bleeding in the abdomen. This may need fluid replacement, blood transfusion or further surgery. This may mean a longer stay in hospital and longer recovery time.
  • Damage to other organs, such as bladder or bowel, which may need further surgery. This may mean long stay in hospital and longer recovery time.
    Infections such as pus collections can occur in the abdominal cavity. This may need surgical drainage.
  • Bowel blockage after the operation. This may be temporary or in the longer term.
  • Treatment may be a drip to give fluids into the vein and no food or fluids by mouth. If it doesn’t get better, bowel surgery may be necessary which may include a colostomy. This can be temporary or permanent.
  • Adhesions (bands of scar tissue) may form and cause a bowel obstruction. This can be a short term or a long term complication and may need further surgery.
  • The wound may not heal normally. The scar can be thickened and red and may be painful.
  • This is permanent and can be disfiguring.
  • Poor wound healing. The wound may burst open which may require long term wound care with dressings and antibiotics. Or a hernia i.e. rupture can form in the long term. This may need repair by further surgery.
  • Increased risk in smokers of wound and chest infections, heart and lung complications and thrombosis.
  • Very low possibility of a fistula (a connecting passage between one area and another) developing.
  • There is a possibility that the symptoms/pain you have been experiencing and the reason for this operation, may not resolve or worsen as a complication of the procedure.
  • The cause of pain/other symptoms sometimes cannot be found, if you are having an exploratory operation.