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A laparotomy is a surgical procedure involving a large incision through the abdominal wall to gain access into the abdominal cavity. It is also known as celiotomy.


In diagnostic laparotomy (most often referred to as an exploratory laparotomy and abbreviated ex-lap), the nature of the disease is unknown, and laparotomy is deemed the best way to identify the cause.

In therapeutic laparotomy, a cause has been identified (e.g. peptic ulcer, colon cancer) and laparotomy is required for its therapy.

Usually, only exploratory laparotomy is considered a stand-alone surgical operation. When a specific operation is already planned, laparotomy is considered merely the first step of the procedure.

Spaces accessed[edit]

Depending on incision placement, laparotomy may give access to any abdominal organ or space, and is the first step in any major diagnostic or therapeutic surgical procedure of these organs, which include:

Types of incisions[edit]

Main article: Surgical Incisions


The most common incision for laparotomy is the midline incision, a vertical incision which follows the linea alba.

Midline incisions are particularly favoured in diagnostic laparotomy, as they allow wide access to most of the abdominal cavity.

Midline incision[edit]

  1. Cut (incised) the skin in mid line (linea alba)
  2. Cut (incised) subcutaneous tissue
  3. Divide the linea alba (white line of the abdomen)
  4. Pick up peritoneum, confirm that there is no bowel adhesion (intestinal adhesion)
  5. Nick peritoneum
  6. Insert finger beneath the wound to make sure that there is no adhesion
  7. Cut the peritoneum with scissors; operative surgery of (lsmu)


Other common laparotomy incisions include:

Related procedures[edit]

A related procedure is laparoscopy, where cameras and other instruments are inserted into the peritoneal cavity via small holes in the abdomen. For example, an appendectomy can be done either by a laparotomy or by a laparoscopic approach.


  1. ^ synd/1010 at Who Named It?
  2. ^ "Incisions". Archived from the original on 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  3. ^ synd/2500 at Who Named It?
  4. ^ H. J. Pfannenstiel. Ueber die Vortheile des suprasymphysären Fascienquerschnitts für die gynäkologischen Koeliotomien. (Volkmann’s) Sammlung klinischer Vorträge, Leipzig, 1900, n F. 268 (Gynäk. Nr. 97), 1735-1756.
  5. ^ Giacalone PL, Daures JP, Vignal J, Herisson C, Hedon B, Laffargue F (2002). "Pfannenstiel versus Maylard incision for cesarean delivery: A randomized controlled trial". Obstetrics and gynecology 99 (5 Pt 1): 745–50. doi:10.1016/S0029-7844(02)01957-9. PMID 11978282. 
  6. ^ Bajpai M, Kumar A, Gupta AK, Pawar DK (2004). "Lumbotomy approach for upper urological tract surgery in children--an analysis of 68 consecutive lumbotomies". European Journal of Pediatric Surgery 14 (3): 163–7. doi:10.1055/s-2004-820903. PMID 15211405. 

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