A laparotomy is a surgical incision (cut) into the abdominal cavity. This operation is performed to examine the abdominal organs and aid diagnosis of any problems, including abdominal pain. In many cases, the problem – once identified – can be fixed during the laparotomy. In other cases, a second operation is required. Another name for laparotomy is abdominal exploration.

A common reason for a laparotomy is to investigate abdominal pain, but the procedure may be required for a broad range of indications. The abdominal organs include the digestive tract (such as the stomach, liver and intestines) and the organs of excretion (such as the kidneys and bladder). Your surgeon may need to operate to find out the exact cause of your complaint. For example, they may need to pinpoint the cause of internal bleeding in the digestive tract or find out where your bowel may be perforated (burst), before treatment can commence.