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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What is the test?

A laparoscope is a flexible tube. The far end of the tube is placed inside the abdomen through a small incision, with the near end remaining outside the body. At the far end of the tube is a light, and a camera that sends a picture to a television screen. The surgeon can perform surgery by controlling surgical instruments. Laparoscopy involves just looking, and laparoscopic surgery obviously involves also doing surgery.

Although x-rays and other imaging techniques have made it possible to see the inside of the body without cutting the skin, these techniques cannot always see what can be seen through a laparoscope. So laparoscopy can help diagnose many conditions.

Surgery of the abdomen and pelvis used to require a relatively large incision. Increasingly popular since the 1980s, laparoscopic surgery allows much smaller incisions. For example, abdominal and pelvic laparoscopic surgery can diagnose and treat infertility or pelvic pain, remove the gallbladder or appendix, and perform tubal ligation to prevent pregnancies.

The main advantages of laparoscopic surgery are reduced pain, smaller scars, a faster recovery time, and a reduced risk of serious bleeding.

From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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