What Is A Laparoscopy?

Laparoscopy (pronounced “lap-a-ROSS-coe-pee”) is a surgical procedure performed through very small incisions in the abdomen, using specialized instruments. A pencil-thin instrument called a laparoscope is used, and it gives the surgeon an exceptionally clear view, on a TV monitor, of the inside of the abdominal cavity.

A laparoscope has lenses like a telescope to magnify body structures, a powerful light to illuminate them, and a miniature video camera. The camera sends images of the inside of the body to a TV monitor in the operating room. Specialized surgical instruments can be inserted through the laparoscope, and through small incisions nearby.

This type of surgery is called ‘minimally invasive’ because of the very small incisions used. Yet major procedures can now be performed using this technique. The term laparoscopy is used when this type of surgery is performed in the abdomen. It’s called arthroscopy when performed in a joint, and endoscopy when done through a natural opening in the body, such as the mouth or nose.

  • “Laparo” comes from a Greek word meaning “flank,” which is the side of the body between the ribs and hips. Doctors use this term to refer to the abdomen. The term “scope” means to look at or examine.
  • Many procedures once done through a large opening in the abdomen can now be done with the small incisions of laparoscopy.
  • Laparoscopy has become the preferred surgical technique for some conditions, such as gallbladder disease.

Facts About Laparoscopy

  • Reducing the size of incisions has been a dream of surgeons for thousands of years. Hippocrates described a rectoscope in 400 BC. Albukasim, an Arab doctor of the 11th century, developed a speculum illuminated by a set of light reflectors. These early systems had limited applications because the heat produced by candles and other artificial lights was transmitted to the instruments and could result in burns.
  • In 1901, George Kelling was the first person to perform a laparoscopy on a dog using a technique to introduce air into the abdominal cavity. The first laparoscopy on a human was performed in 1911 by the Swedish doctor H. C. Jacobeus.
  • Up to the 1970s, laparoscopy was mainly used by gynecologists and gastroenterologists for diagnostic purposes.Therapeutic laparoscopy was introduced by gynecologists in the early 1970s.
  • Rapid technical advances in miniaturized surgical tools, fiber optics, and video systems enabled new developments in minimally invasive surgery. These methods greatly reduced post-operative complications so that laparoscopy and other types of minimally invasive surgery became widely used by surgeons around the world.
  • In 1911, Dr. Bertram M. Bernheim, of Johns Hopkins University, was the first to perform laparoscopic surgery in the United States.
  • In the 1980s, the development of small, high-resolution television cameras made the laparoscope a more effective tool for operating inside the abdominal cavity.
  • The first live broadcast of a laparoscopy via the Internet took place in 1996.
  • On March 3, 1997, a computer-enhanced robotic system was used on a human for the first time by Dr. J. Himpens to perform some steps of laparoscopic surgery.
  • Removal of the gallbladder with laparoscopy is one of the most common operations in the United States. About 800,000 people undergo laparoscopic gallbladder removal each year.

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