Laparoscopic surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is also known as key-hole surgery. It is a type of surgery using video cameras which enables doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) to carry out the surgery without making a big incision (cut) in your body. This means that you will have less pain, less scarring and a faster recovery than the more traditional types of surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery is used to treat many different types of disorders, including: 

  • appendicitis
  • problems with the digestive system such as Crohn's disease and gastro-oesophageal reflux 
  • diseases that affect the gallbladder


The day before your laparoscopy, you may have to have a blood test and maybe an x-ray or scan. These are to check that you are healthy enough to have the procedure. The evening before the procedure you may have to take a laxative. This will make you poo so that your gastric system is empty before you have your operation, meaning that it is less likely for you to get an infection. You will not be able to eat anything after a certain time – the doctor or nurse will advise you about this.

On the day, you will have to discuss your health with the surgeon and anaesthetist before the operation and they will talk about what will happen.

All girls aged 12 years or older are tested to make sure they are not pregnant on the day of their procedure. If they are found to be pregnant the surgeon will decide if the procedure should be delayed or cancelled.

You will be asked to wear a hospital gown and then you will be taken to the operating suite. You may have an intravenous line inserted (a drip) and you will have heart and oxygen monitoring equipment attached to you. This is so that the staff will be able to check that everything is alright during the operation.

You will be given a general anaesthetic and will not be aware of the operation happening. The anaesthetist will stay with you throughout the operation to make sure that you have the right amount of anaesthetic and that your heart rate, blood pressure etc are all OK. 


Instead of making a big incision, the surgeon can make a few small holes which will be up to one centimetre long. Some gas is injected through one of the cuts to slightly 'blow out' the abdominal wall. This makes it easier to see inside your body.

Through these holes they will then insert a laparoscope and some other instruments. The laparoscope has a video camera which will show the doctor inside your body so that he can see what he is doing with the other instruments. He can then perform the procedure.

When the surgeon has investigated your problem, the holes will be sewn up.

The length of the surgery depends on what you are being treated for. Some treatments will take longer than others.


You will wake up in the recovery room. For the rest of the day you will not be able to eat solid foods, you will only be allowed liquids. If you feel sick you may need a Nasogastric (NG) Tube.

The doctors will tell you when you can start eating again. When your body is ready, you will be able to have liquids first and then try food once your doctor is happy with your recovery. Some people have problems because their intestines are working slower than usual after the operation, but this is usually nothing to worry about, they should sort themselves out. If you are worried about this, talk to your doctor.

Does it hurt?

It may hurt a little. You will be asleep during the operation and won’t feel it. Afterwards it may hurt a bit until it has healed. If you feel uncomfortable talk to the clinical staff who will give you some medicine for the pain.

You may also feel a slight pain in your shoulders; this can be caused by a very slight irritation to your diaphragm from the gas. The pain is often felt towards the top of your back.

Going home

You should be able to go home between one and three days after the surgery. When you get home you should gently build up levels of exercise, this will help your recovery. However, do not rush into anything until you feel strong enough. Your medical or surgical team will give you lots of advice.

It is important that for six weeks after the surgery you should not try to lift anything heavy or do tummy exercises such as sit ups.

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Last review date:
November 2013