Advise Me

What Is Laparoscopic Surgery?

You’ve been given the news you need laparoscopic surgery to repair an injury. You want to finally feel better, but the idea of “going under the knife” makes you nervous.

Traditional surgical methods are often associated with large scars, but thankfully you’re living in an era of innovation in the medical field where minimally invasive surgeries like laparoscopy are available. This technique is used for both exploratory needs, as well as treatment.

Read on to understand more about laparoscopic surgery, how it differs from other surgical procedures and more.

What is laparoscopic surgery?

Laparoscopy is a minimally invasive surgery inside the body that uses several small cuts, or incisions, that are about half an inch in length. It’s also known as keyhole surgery due to the nature of the small incisions.

Laparoscopic surgeries are done under general anesthesia. During the procedure, surgeons use long, thin instruments with a camera to see and operate on the problem area.

“Rather than seeing the internal organs directly, we use a TV screen projection and operate this way,” said Elizabeth Holl, MD, a general surgeon with Banner Health Clinic in Loveland, CO. “It is sometimes described like a video game since your eyes are watching a screen while your hands are working.”

How does laparoscopic surgery differ from open surgery?

Traditional or open surgery is a procedure in which a single incision, typically many inches long, is made to an area. Although both surgeries are done on the inside, open surgery can often have a longer recovery time and a greater potential for pain and scarring.  

“When laparoscopic surgery was first developed, one of the drawbacks was that it took much longer to perform the operation,” Dr. Holl said. “There are some surgeries where this is still true, but for the most part, surgeons’ skill and comfort with laparoscopic techniques have advanced to the point where surgeons take the same time or are faster performing the surgery laparoscopically. This is particularly true with gallbladder removal surgery.”

How does laparoscopic surgery differ from robotic surgery?

Laparoscopic and robotic surgeries have some similarities – both types of surgeries use small incisions, a camera that magnifies the view of the procedure and surgical instruments. However, robotic-assisted laparoscopy uses mechanical arms controlled by the surgeon’s hands, which enables the surgeon to perform more precise movements and smaller incisions.

“The reason that robotic surgery has been developed is to perform the surgeries that are most difficult to perform laparoscopically,” Dr. Holl said. “It provides improved movements of the instruments within the body, allowing for both hand- and wrist-like movements through the same small incisions.”

Robotic surgery is most beneficial for difficult surgeries done in the upper abdomen, pelvis and abdominal wall hernias.  

There are many uses for robotic surgery as well as many uses for laparoscopic surgery, and the decision often depends on the surgeon. 

“Robotic surgery is not typically done in conjunction with laparoscopic surgery, it is in place of laparoscopic surgery to provide the advanced techniques required for that operation,” Dr. Holl said.

What are the benefits of laparoscopic surgery?

Compared to open surgery, laparoscopic surgery has some advantages. These include:

  • Smaller scars
  • Shorter hospital stays after surgery
  • Quicker healing and recovery
  • Less pain
  • Less risk for internal scarring
  • Quicker return to daily activities

What are the risks of laparoscopic surgery?

As with any medical procedure, laparoscopy isn’t without some risks. Complications include:

  •  Infection
  • Bleeding or blood clots
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Injuries to surrounding tissues or organs
  • Allergic reaction to anesthesia

What types of surgeries are performed laparoscopically?

Laparoscopic surgery is used to examine and perform surgery in the abdomen and pelvis area.  

There are many surgeries that can be performed this way, including:

What does recovery look like after laparoscopic surgery?

After surgery, you’ll go to a postoperative recovery area until you wake up. The staff will monitor your vitals, such as your blood pressure, respiratory rate, pulse and oxygen, and look out for any negative symptoms. You may also receive pain medication.

Once you’re alert, you may be able to go home on the day of surgery or you may need to stay and be moved to a hospital room for a few days.

When you’re discharged from the hospital, your surgical team will give you specific instructions about when to see them next and how to take care of yourself as you recover. Complete recovery can take a few days or months, depending on the procedure, your health and complications.

When should you contact your surgeon after surgery?

While complications are rare, there is always some risk with medical procedures. Connect with your health care provider or surgeon if you’re experiencing uncontrolled pain, high fever, redness, swelling, fluid or pus around the wound, nausea or vomiting or pain and swelling in one leg.

Laparoscopic surgery isn’t for every person

While minimally invasive surgery like laparoscopic surgery is a great solution for many people, not everyone is suited for this method. Depending on things like the nature of your surgery, prior surgeries and your medical history, your surgeon will discuss with you what surgery is most appropriate for you.


Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that allows surgeons to treat and explore organs of the body through tiny incisions. The advantage of this treatment is that you generally have a shorter stay in the hospital, there are no deep incisions, and you typically heal quicker. However, like with any surgery, complications are possible.

Talk to your health care provider or surgeon about what surgical procedure is right for you. To find a Banner Health specialist near you, visit

Additional articles:

Outpatient Surgery Orthopedics