Laparotomy or Open Abdominal Surgery


I operate out of St. Paul’s Hospital. Visit their website for general information to prepare for your procedure including Info For Surgical Patients which has a thorough walk through from admission to discharge.


This is major surgery and you can expect to be sore for a while. You would have been in hospital for a few days on fairly strong pain medication. You also would have had a catheter and an IV in place. These are usually removed before going home. In some cases, you may be sent home with the catheter still in your bladder, but this is rare and you will be told how to care for it.

By the time you are ready to go home you should be able to walk around unaided but you will be sore. It may also burn when you urinate. This is from the catheter. The site of the IV may also be sore and swollen. The pain medication from the surgery usually makes you constipated, so it is common for you not to have a bowel movement for a few days following your surgery.

Wound Care

If you have had a “bikini “incision, you cannot break the wound open. It will hurt when you cough, sneeze or laugh, but you will not damage the wound.

When you get home you can do any activity that is not painful. You can climb stairs and lift light objects as long as you do not have to strain to lift or carry them.

The rule of thumb is that you can do anything as long as it is not painful. It is not recommended that you drive for 2 weeks after your surgery.

The wound itself needs very little care. You can have a shower and get it wet. Dry it gently after the shower and apply some Polysporin cream over the incision.

If you have had a midline cut, this incision is more delicate and can be damaged if you are not careful. You may still have staples holding the skin together when you go home. You will be told when to come to the office to have the staples taken out. Heavy lifting or straining can cause the wound to break open so I suggest that you take it easy when you are at home. Stairs are fine as long as you go up slowly.

You can get the incision wet. Gently dab it dry with a towel. When sitting or bending forward it is very common for the wound to open up a little at the bottom of the cut just above the pubic bone. This is very difficult to prevent and if it does happen as small separation is nothing to worry about.

Apply Polysporin cream over the incision twice a day. Protect the wound with your hand when you feel you have to cough, laugh or strain.

What is not normal?

Please call me if you have any of the following;

  • The incision is getting red, tender and more painful.
  • Pus, blood or a lot of fluid coming out of the wound.
  • The wound is starting to open up.
  • You have fever (greater than 38.5 C) or chills, or you feel like you are getting the flu.
  • You have heavy vaginal bleeding in which you are soaking a pad every 15 minutes for 2 hours or more.
  • You have severe abdominal or pelvic pain that doesn’t respond to pain medication.
  • You are unable to empty your bladder.
  • Your belly is getting very distended and painful.
  • Your leg is painful and swollen.
  • You are short of breath.
  • You have an offensive vaginal discharge.
  • You have nausea and vomiting lasting more than 24 hours.