The surgical exploration of the abdomen, also called an exploratory laparotomy, may be recommended when there is abdominal disease from an unknown cause (to diagnose), or trauma to the abdomen (gunshot or stab-wounds, or "blunt trauma").
Diseases that may be discovered by exploratory laparotomy include:
- Inflammation of the appendix (acute appendicitis)
- Inflammation of the pancreas (acute or chronic pancreatitis)
- Pockets of infection (retroperitoneal abscess, abdominal abscess, pelvic abscess))
- Presence of uterine tissue (endometrium) in the abdomen (endometriosis)
- Inflammation of the Fallopian tubes (salpingitis)
- Scar tissue in the abdomen (adhesions)
- Cancer (of the ovary, colon, pancreas, liver)
- Inflammation of an intestinal pocket (diverticulitis)
- Hole in the intestine (intestinal perforation)
- Pregnancy in the abdomen instead of uterus (ectopic pregnancy)
- To determine the extent of certain cancers (Hodgkin's lymphoma)
Review Date 3/5/2020
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.