Montgomery Women’s Fertility Center
3202 Tower Oaks Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20852
Laparoscopy: Diagnosing Female Health Problems
To diagnose certain problems, a doctor needs to look directly into the abdomen and at the reproductive organs. This can be done with laparoscopy.
The word laparoscopy comes from the Greek words that mean “look into the abdomen.” A laparoscope is a small telescope that is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision (cut). It brings light into the abdomen so the doctor can see inside.
There are several reasons why laparoscopy may be recommended. Laparoscopy may be used if you have problems with infertility or if you want to be sterilized. It is also used to check for ectopic pregnancy, causes of pelvic pain and masses.
Diagnosis and Surgery
Laparoscopy is often used to diagnose causes of abdominal pain. If the doctor finds that he or she can treat the condition during the procedure, diagnostic laparoscopy can turn into operative laparoscopy. This procedure is used to treat many health problems.
- Endometriosis. Tissue like endometrium (the lining of the uterus) sometimes grows in places outside of the uterus. One way to be certain that endometriosis is present is by laparoscopy.
- Adhesions. Sometimes tissues in the abdomen stick together and form scar tissue called adhesions. Adhesions can cause pain. They can be separated during laparoscopy.
- Fibroids. Fibroids are growths that form on the inside, outside or within the wall of the uterus. Laparoscopy can diagnose some fibroids.
- Ovarian cysts. Ovaries sometimes develop cysts (fluid-filled sacs). These cysts may be harmless, causing only mild pain.
- Hysterectomy. The laparoscope can be used to assist in a vaginal hysterectomy (removal of the uterus through the vagina). The laparoscope is used to help the doctor see inside the abdomen during part of the surgery.
Infertility and Sterilization
Women who have trouble getting pregnant may have laparoscopy to find problems like endometriosis or cysts.
Laparoscopy is also used for sterilization. In this operation, the doctor uses the laparoscope as a guide to block the fallopian tubes by cutting, clipping or burning them.
When a woman has pain in her lower abdomen during early pregnancy, the doctor may suspect an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is one that may be located in the tube instead of the uterus. It may rupture the tube and cause abdominal bleeding that may require emergency surgery.