Skip navigation

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

URL of this page:


What is a laparoscopy?

A laparoscopy is a type of surgery that lets a surgeon look inside your body without making a large incision (cut). It's used to help diagnose and sometimes treat conditions that develop in your belly or pelvis.

To do a laparoscopy, a surgeon makes a small cut near your belly button that's usually a half-inch long or less. The surgeon inserts a long, thin tube with a camera through the cut and into your body. This tube is called a laparoscope. The camera sends images from inside your body to a video monitor. This allows the surgeon to see inside your body.

The surgeon may make one or two other small cuts in your belly for inserting special surgical tools into your body. Using these tools, the surgeon can remove samples of tissue to check for signs of disease (a biopsy).

Sometimes during a laparoscopy, the surgeon will use these tools to do procedures to treat certain problems. For example, if a laparoscopy finds a tumor, the surgeon may remove it completely during the same surgery. Many common surgical treatments can be done with laparoscopic surgery.

Laparoscopy is sometimes called "minimally invasive surgery" or "keyhole surgery," because it requires smaller cuts than traditional, "open" surgery. The use of smaller cuts has several benefits, including:

  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Less pain
  • Faster recovery and smaller scars

Other names: diagnostic laparoscopy, exploratory laparoscopy

What is it used for?

Laparoscopy is used to help diagnose the cause of symptoms in the belly or pelvis. It's usually done if imaging tests, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, and MRI scans, haven't provided enough information to confirm a diagnosis.

The test is often used to help diagnose:

A surgeon uses laparoscopy to:

  • Examine organs and glands to look for:
  • Collect tissue samples to check for disease
  • Find out if a known cancer has spread in the body

Why do I need a laparoscopy?

There are many reasons why you may need a laparoscopy, including if:

  • You have pain or other symptoms in your belly or pelvis and imaging tests haven't been able to find the cause.
  • You've been in a serious accident or have been wounded and may have organ injuries.
  • You have cancer and your health care provider needs to know if it has spread to other parts of your body. This information helps choose your treatment.
  • You've had abnormal liver tests and your provider doesn't know why.

If you're female, you may need a laparoscopy to:

What happens during a laparoscopy?

Laparoscopy is usually done in a hospital or an outpatient clinic. In general, it includes these steps:

  • You'll wear a hospital gown and lay on an operating table.
  • Usually, you will have general anesthesia, which is medicine to make you sleep during the surgery. The medicine is injected into your bloodstream through an intravenous (IV) line that's inserted into a vein. You may also inhale a gas from a mask to make you sleep.
  • To do the laparoscopy, the surgeon will:
    • Make a small cut near your belly button
    • Put carbon dioxide gas into your belly to open up space between your organs so it's easier to see them
    • Insert the laparoscope and small camera into your belly
    • Move the laparoscope to look at your organs and glands on a computer screen
  • If you need to have a biopsy or another procedure, the surgeon may need to make more small cuts to insert surgical tools.
  • When the surgeon is done, the tools and most of the gas will be removed from your body, and the small incisions will be closed and bandaged.
  • After surgery, you will be moved to a recovery room. In most cases, you'll be able to go home after a few hours, but that depends on what procedures were done during the laparoscopy. Before you leave, you'll get information about what to expect over the next few days at home.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

Your provider will let you know how to prepare. Be sure to follow all the instructions. You will need to fast (not eat or drink) for a period of time before a laparoscopy. Ask your provider whether you should take your usual medicines and/or supplements. But don't stop taking any medicine without talking with your provider first.

Plan to wear loose-fitting clothes because after the surgery, your belly may be bloated from the gas and a little sore. You're also likely to feel groggy, so you'll need to plan to have someone take you home.

Are there any risks to the test?

You may have mild abdominal pain or discomfort for a few days after a laparoscopy. You may also have neck or shoulder pain. That's because the gas used in the surgery may irritate nerves in your belly that run through your shoulder.

After a laparoscopy, serious problems are very uncommon. But they can include bleeding, infection, blood clots, damage to an organ or blood vessel, and problems from the medicine that made you sleep during the procedure.

What do the results mean?

The results of a laparoscopy depend on the reason for doing the procedure. Your provider can explain what was found and what that information means for your health. In general, your provider will be able to make a very accurate diagnosis of your condition based on the information from a laparoscopy.

Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results


  1. ACOG: Women's Healthcare Physicians [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; c2022. FAQ: Laparoscopy; [updated 2021 Feb; cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 7 screens]. Available from:
  2. Ballehaninna U.K. Exploratory (Diagnostic) Laparoscopy. [Updated 2022 Jan 12; cited 2022 Nov 15]. Medscape eMedicine Drugs & Diseases: Clinical Procedures [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): WebMD LLC; c1994-2022. Available from:
  3. Brigham Health: Brigham and Women's Hospital [Internet]. Boston: Brigham and Women's Hospital; c2022. Laparoscopy; [cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  4. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Cleveland (OH): Cleveland Clinic; c2022. Laparoscopy; [cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 13 screens]. Available from:
  5. [Internet].; c2005-2022. Laparoscopy: before and after tips; [updated 2015 Jan 11; cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  6. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998-2022. General anesthesia: About; [cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 7 screens]. Available from:
  7. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998-2022. Minimally invasive surgery: About; [cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 5 screens]. Available from:
  8. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2022. Laparoscopy; [modified 2022 Sep; cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 1 screen]. Available from:
  9. Mount Nittany Health [Internet]. Mount Nittany Health; What Is Reproductive Laparoscopy?; 2021 May 8 [cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 4 screens]. Available from:
  10. SAGES [Internet]. Los Angeles: Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons; Diagnostic Laparoscopy Patient Information from SAGES; [updated 2015 Mar 1; cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 11 screens]. Available from:
  11. UCSF Medical Center [Internet]. San Francisco (CA): The Regents of the University of California; c2002-2022. Medical Tests: Laparoscopy; [reviewed 2018 Jun 11; cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  12. UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. Gainesville (FL): University of Florida Health; c2022. Diagnostic laparoscopy: Overview; [updated 2020 May 17; cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:
  13. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2022. Health Encyclopedia: Hysterectomy; [cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 11 screens]. Available from:
  14. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2022. Health Encyclopedia: Laparoscopy; [cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about screens]. Available from:
  15. UW Health [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority; c2022. Health Information: Anesthesia; [updated 2022 Feb 16; cited 2022 Nov 16]; [about 3 screens]. Available from:

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.