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Surg Endosc. 2006 Jan;20(1):14-29. Epub 2005 Oct 24.

Laparoscopy for abdominal emergencies: evidence-based guidelines of the European Association for Endoscopic Surgery.

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Institute for Research in Operative Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Ostmerheimer Strasse 200, D 51109, Cologne, Germany.



Emergency laparoscopic exploration can be used to identify the causative pathology of acute abdominal pain. Laparoscopic surgery also allows treatment of many intraabdominal disorders. This report was prepared to describe the effectiveness of laparoscopic surgery compared to laparotomy or nonoperative treatment.


A panel of European experts in abdominal and gynecological surgery was assembled and participated in a consensus conference using Delphi methods. The aim was to develop evidence-based recommendations for the most common diseases that may cause acute abdominal pain.


Laparoscopic surgery was found to be clearly superior for patients with a presumable diagnosis of perforated peptic ulcer, acute cholecystitis, appendicitis, or pelvic inflammatory disease. In the emergency setting, laparoscopy is of unclear or limited value if adhesive bowel obstruction, acute diverticulitis, nonbiliary pancreatitis, hernia incarceration, or mesenteric ischemia are suspected. In stable patients with acute abdominal pain, noninvasive diagnostics should be fully exhausted before considering explorative surgery. However, diagnostic laparoscopy may be useful if no diagnosis can be found by conventional diagnostics. More clinical data are needed on the use of laparoscopy after blunt or penetrating trauma of the abdomen.


Due to diagnostic and therapeutic advantages, laparoscopic surgery is useful for the majority of conditions underlying acute abdominal pain, but noninvasive diagnostic aids should be exhausted first. Depending on symptom severity, laparoscopy should be advocated if routine diagnostic procedures have failed to yield results.

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