Care of the Laser/Laparoscopic Surgical Patient

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The evolution of laser and laparoscopic procedures since 1980’s has greatly changed the face and pace of perianesthesia nursing care. Many procedures are now performed on an outpatient basis because of new energies, such as lasers, and alternative approaches, such as laparoscopy. Patients who undergo procedures that 30 years ago required lengthy hospitalizations are now discharged within 24 to 48 hours. Much of this increase in ambulatory surgery and rapid hospital discharge has been driven by reimbursement and insurance issues. Innovations in anesthesia, such as bispectral index monitoring, improved inhalational agents and muscle relaxants, advances in pain management, and regional anesthetic and analgesic techniques, have also had positive effects. Technologic advances in surgical techniques, however, have had the greatest effect because these advances allow for the performance of more complex procedures with less trauma to the patient. Laparoscopic techniques and even laser technology form the foundation for many of these surgeries.

This chapter provides an overview of laser and laparoscopic advancements and how these technologies affect perianesthesia patient care. Details of the care of patients who undergo specific procedures may be found in the appropriate systems chapters throughout this book.


Absorption The action of the tissue taking up the laser energy, which causes a reaction within the tissue. Thermal damage caused by laser absorption depends on the wavelength and fluence of the laser beam and the tissue consistency, color, and water content.

Coherence A state in which all the waves travel in the same phase and direction and all the peaks and troughs of the waves are synchronized.

Collimation A state in which light waves travel parallel to each other and do not diverge or spread, which reduces the loss of power and allows for increased focus and precision.

Laparoscopic Surgery A form of endoscopic surgery with a fiberoptic laparoscope inserted into the peritoneum for surgical assessment or treatment of a wide and continually expanding range of conditions.

Laser (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation) A process by which energy is converted into a light form or light energy.

Monochromatic Light composed of one color or wavelength.

Pneumoperitoneum Created when gas is delivered into the abdominal cavity through a Veress needle that is advanced through the abdominal wall. A mechanical insufflator with a pressure-limiting function is connected with tubing to the Veress needle to inflate the peritoneum. When a pneumoperitoneum is achieved, the surgical team is able to visualize the contents of the abdominal cavity and perform the indicated procedure.

Reflection Occurs when the direction of the laser beam is changed after it comes in contact with a surface.

Scattering Process in which the laser beam is distributed in many different paths after entering the tissue.

Transmission Occurs when the laser beam passes through or is transmitted through a medium, such as fluids or tissue, with little or no thermal effect.

Laser surgery

The term laser is actually an acronym for light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation. It describes a process by which energy is converted into a light form or light energy. The theory on which laser technology is based was developed by Albert Einstein in 1917. Schawlow and Townes further explored this theory while Gordon Gould also researched light technology. The principle of LASER was introduced in 1958 by these researchers, and the first true laser device was built by Theodore H. Maiman in 1960.1 Laser devices, although initially controversial, revolutionized surgical procedures; technology and the use of lasers continue to expand. The benefits of laser-assisted surgery are numerous (Box 47.1).1

Laser Light

Laser energy is measured by the wavelength of the light, which is the distance between two successive peaks of a wave. Laser wavelengths are often measured in nanometers (nm). One nanometer is equal to 10–9 meter or one billionth of a meter.1,2 Lasers used in surgery today that are longer wavelengths (700 nm to 1 mm) are found in the invisible infrared section of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as the CO2 laser at 10,600 nm used to cut and coagulate soft tissue. Laser wavelengths can be in the visible area of the electromagnetic spectrum (400 to 700 nm), such as the green light used to coagulate superficial blood vessels or a pulsed-dye laser at 504 nm used to fragment urinary stones. Wavelengths that are very short are found in the ultraviolet section of the electromagnetic spectrum (100 to 400 nm), such as the excimer laser used to sculpt corneas during a LASIK procedure1 (Fig. 47.1).

Electromagnetic spectrum shows infrared region, followed by visible light and ultraviolet region. Visible light region with an adjacent trough in infrared and crest in ultraviolet is marked lasers.
Fig. 47.1 Electromagnetic spectrum. (From Ball KA. Lasers: The Perioperative Challenge. 4th ed. Laser Institute of America: Orlando; 2018. p. 4, Fig. 1.5.)

Laser light differs from ordinary light in three distinct ways that make it both unique and effective in the surgical setting.1,2

  1. 1. Laser light is monochromatic, which means one color or wavelength. This pure color can determine how the laser beam reacts with certain tissues. Ordinary light, in comparison, is polychromatic, which means that it comprises a multiple array of colors or wavelengths.
  2. 2. Laser light is collimated. The light waves travel parallel to each other and do not diverge or spread. Collimation reduces the loss of power and allows for better focus and precision. Ordinary light spreads out in space as it travels away from its source.
  3. 3. Laser light is coherent. All the waves travel in an orderly manner in the same phase and direction, and all the peaks and troughs of the waves are synchronized. This coherence gives the laser beam its power. Ordinary light, in comparison, is incoherent as its waves travel out in random directions.

Tissue Interaction

Four different interactions can occur when laser energy comes into contact with human tissue (Fig. 47.2). These interactions include reflection, scattering, transmission, and absorption.1,2 The extent of this interaction is dependent on the wavelength of the laser, power settings, spot size, duration of exposure of the laser beam with the tissue, and the characteristics of the tissue. These interactions can have both positive and negative effects.1,2

  •  Reflection. Reflection occurs when the direction of the laser beam is changed after it comes into contact with a surface. This direction change can be intentional or accidental and thus can have both positive and negative effects. Mirrors can be used to intentionally reflect the laser beam to direct the beam to a hard-to-reach area. This action must be done carefully, however, to prevent an inadvertent strike and possible damage to a nontargeted area. Reflection can also occur if the laser beam hits an obstacle (e.g., a shiny metal surgical instrument) and then is inadvertently reflected to another area, thus causing a tissue burn. Reflection can be either specular (direct reflection) or diffuse (scattered reflection).
  •  Scattering. The laser beam can also scatter as it enters certain tissues. This scattering causes the beam to disperse over a large area and weakens its strength. Backscattering can also occur as the beam scatters backward up the endoscope, thus causing damage to the operator’s eye, the endoscope optics, or the distal end of the scope.
  •  Transmission. Transmission occurs when the laser beam passes or is transmitted through fluids or tissue with little or no thermal effect. Transmission depends on the wavelength of the laser beam and the tissue with which it comes in contact. For example, an argon laser beam can be transmitted through the clear structures and solutions of the eye to coagulate a bleeding vessel on the retina. This action occurs because the argon energy is not absorbed by clear structures and solutions; therefore, no thermal effect is noted in these tissues.
  •  Absorption. Thermal effects and tissue response occur only when the tissue absorbs the energy of the laser. The amount of absorption and penetration depends on the beam’s wavelength and power, the characteristics of the contact tissue (color, consistency, and water content), the duration of the beam exposure, and the beam spot size. A thermal response can occur when tissue absorbs laser energy, thus heating the target cells. The degree of tissue response or thermal damage depends on the temperature to which the cells are heated. This temperature change is purposely regulated to effect the desired tissue response (Table 47.1).

    Table 47.1

    Tissue Changes with Temperature Increases
    Temperature (° C) Visual Change Biologic Change
    37–60 No visual change Warming, welding
    60–65 Blanching Coagulation
    65–90 White/gray Protein denaturization
    90–100 Puckering Drying
    >  100 Smoke plume Vaporization, carbonization

    From Ball KA. Lasers: The Perioperative Challenge. 4th ed. Laser Institute of America: Orlando; 2018. p. 13, Table 1.3.

A) Light falls on surface and reflects. B) Light hits on surface and scatters in different directions. C) Light strikes a surface and goes through it. D) Light falls on surface and gets absorbed.
Fig. 47.2 Laser-tissue interaction. A, Reflection. B, Scattering. C, Transmission. D, Absorption. (From Ball KA. Surgical modalities. In: Rothrock JC. Alexander’s care of the patient in surgery. 16th ed. Mosby: St. Louis; 2019. p. 229, Fig. 8.54.)

Laser surgery can be categorized into three different types of tissue response, including thermal, mechanical, and chemical effects.1,2 The thermal effect, as discussed previously, is the most common laser effect as tissue is vaporized, coagulated, ablated, cut, and welded depending upon the degree of thermal interaction. The mechanical (acoustical) effect from laser energy results when sound energy is created by the laser beam which disrupts tissue. The chemical effect is produced as the laser energy is used to activate a light-sensitive dye to disrupt and change tissue.

Types of Lasers

Lasers are classified by the four active mediums used to generate the laser energy: gas, solid-state crystal, liquid, and semiconductor diode.1 In a gas medium, electric energy is pumped through a gas, such as argon, to produce the laser energy. A solid-state crystal medium uses a special rod doped with an element that is activated with exposure to flash lamps to create the laser energy. Liquid mediums are organic dyes that produce a wide range of wavelengths when activated with another laser beam. Semiconductor diodes are used in the medical field and in consumer products and fiberoptic communication systems. Experimental mediums that are currently being explored include free electron lasers. The actual laser name is usually derived from the active medium substance that is used to generate the laser energy.1,2 A summary of the various lasers currently in use can be found in Table 47.2.

Table 47.2

Summary of Laser Types and Uses
Name Wavelength (nm) Active Medium Special Characteristics Uses
Ruby laser 694 Solid First successful medical laser Tattoo and hair removal

Has been replaced by newer technology
Nd:YAG 1064–1318 Solid state Transmitted through clear fluids and structures and more highly absorbed by darker tissue
Can be focused to precise diameter for delicate procedures in confined areas such as middle ear
Provides good penetration depth, although energy is not highly focused and laser light tends to scatter, thus causing thermal damage to approximately 2–6 mm
Can be delivered in contact and noncontact modes
Primary function is coagulation
Special pulsed mode also used in ophthalmology
Used for skin rejuvenation and removal of pigmented lesions and tattoos in dermatology
Interstitial laser prostatectomy
Various applications also used in gastroenterology, pulmonary, oral surgery, and gynecology
Erbium:YAG 2900 Solid state Highly absorbed by water
Shallow depth of penetration
Used for oral surgery, ophthalmic surgery, dermatology
Used with endoscopes
Holium:YAG 2100 Solid state Produces vapor bubble to transmit beam to tissue in fluid environments
Shallow depth of penetration
Ablates tissue precisely
Can be conducted through flexible fiber
Transmyocardial revascularization
Oral surgery
Fragmentation of stones
Many other applications in surgical arena
Frequency-doubled (KTP) YAG 532 Solid state Moderate depth of penetration
Highly absorbed by pigmentation
Used with flexible or rigid endoscopes
Used for general surgery, urology, gastroenterology, neurosurgery, otorhinolaryngology, dermatology, and cosmetic surgery
CO2 10,600 Gas Most versatile laser
Can be operated in continuous or pulsed modes
Different tissue and thermal effects can be created by varying duration of exposure and spot size
Highly absorbed by water
Requires articulating arm system or hollow core fiber for delivery
Performs coagulation, cutting, and vaporization functions
Popular for use in cutaneous laser resurfacing
Also used in following surgical specialties: general, gynecology, ENT, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, dermatology, and oral surgery
Argon 488 or 457 (blue), 514.5 or 528 (green) Gas Transmitted through clear structures and solutions
Moderate depth of penetration
Highly selective to pigmented tissue such as hemoglobin, melanin, and other similar tissues
Because of high selectivity of beam to pigmented tissues, adjacent tissue injury significantly reduced
Used with rigid endoscopes
Well suited for ophthalmic surgery
Used in dermatology for ablation of vascular and pigmented lesions
Also used in gastroenterology, gynecology, and otology
Krypton 531 (green), 568 (yellow), 647 (red) Gas Used in ophthalmology as alternative to argon laser Effective for selective photocoagulation procedures
Used primarily in ophthalmology
Also used for removal of pigmented lesions
Dye 400–1000 (Variable with dyes) Liquid Can emit different wavelengths depending on dye used
Can be used in continuous or pulsed modes
Used primarily in ophthalmology and dermatology
Fragmentation of stones
Limited applications such as photodynamic therapy and for vascular lesions
Used with flexible or rigid endoscopes
Excimer 193–351 Excited dimmer Complex delivery system
Gases are extremely toxic and require appropriate laser housings and exhausts
Larger units need more floor space
Excellent cutting capabilities with no significant damage to adjacent tissue
Has been used successfully to sculpt corneas for refractive purposes and to ablate plaque in arteries
Also used for phototherapeutic keratectomy procedures
Other uses in orthopedics and dermatology also being explored
Diode Varies Semiconductor crystals Extremely compact efficient crystals Often used in consumer products such as video disc players and computers
Now being used for surgical lasers primarily in ophthalmic, dermatologic, dental, photodynamic therapy, plastic surgery, and urologic applications such as interstitial laser prostatectomy
Other applications are being explored, including pain management.
Free electron
Relativistic electron beam Large experimental laser consisting of magnetic field
Great versatility in emitting variety of wavelengths with high-precision capability
Currently under investigation

ENT, Ear, nose, and throat; KTP, potassium titanyl phosphate; Nd, neodymium; YAG, yttrium-aluminum-garnet.

Modified from Ball KA. Lasers: the perioperative challenge. 4th ed. Laser Institute of America: Orlando; 2018. p. 26, Table 2.2; Ball KA. Surgical modalities. In: Rothrock JC. Alexander’s care of the patient in surgery. 16th ed. Mosby: St. Louis; 2019. p. 231, Table 8.4.

Preoperative Care

Preoperative care, as with any procedure, focuses on adequate preoperative assessment and preparation of the patient. Although procedure-specific issues are addressed in other chapters, certain issues unique to laser surgery must be addressed in this discussion. One of those issues is appropriate patient selection. Procedure-specific requirements and contraindications must be evaluated.

For example, transmyocardial revascularization with the laser is generally limited to patients with advanced cardiovascular disease who have hemodynamically stable conditions and are not candidates for traditional bypass surgery. This innovative laser treatment may offer a method to revascularize the heart muscle for patients with intractable ischemic heart disease.1,3 Dermatologic procedures may require skin preparation at home, preoperative administration of prophylactic antibiotics or antivirals, multiple treatments, and consistent postoperative skin care regimens that may last up to 1 month or more.1 Preoperative care must include education concerning these issues and must be used to determine whether the patient will be able to comply with the treatment regimen.

The patient must also be prepared for expectations both during and after surgery. Many of these procedures are conducted without any anesthesia or with moderate sedation. The patient must be prepared for the sights, smells, and other sensations that will be experienced. Eye protection must be provided for the patient depending on the laser wavelength used. Odors can include the smell of tissue vaporization. The patient may also have burning or stinging types of painful sensations with certain procedures that can be minimized with appropriate preoperative preparation and relaxation medications.1,4

Intraoperative Issues

Intraoperative issues with laser procedures primarily concern safety. Lasers are considered a class III medical device and, as such, are subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration jurisdiction.1,2 Many other regulatory, industry, and professional bodies also address the safe use of lasers. Regulations addressed include if registration of laser devices is needed, training requirements, laser safety officer responsibilities, and safety rules.

Lasers must be further classified by the manufacturer according to their potential to cause biologic harm and their inherent level of hazard. The classification system is based on the laser output power, wavelength, exposure duration, and emergent beam exposure.1 The classification system ranges from I to IV; the higher the class, the greater the potential hazard. Most lasers used in surgery are classified as class IV and can damage eyes and skin and present a fire hazard.1,2 Because of the many provider and patient risks associated with laser use, a laser safety program should be in place in any facility in which laser procedures are conducted. This includes freestanding ambulatory facilities and physician’s offices. A laser safety committee complete with a laser safety officer should be established and responsible for guiding and overseeing all laser use in the facility.1 Issues that should be addressed include staff education, physician credentialing, and the monitoring of quality and safety issues. All staff involved in laser use must receive appropriate education before using or being involved in laser procedures.1 Topics included in these special training classes include laser biophysics, laser equipment, laser-tissue interaction, safety procedures, and clinical applications.1,5 Knowledge and skills should be verified through a competency-based credentialing program, and the skills should be reassessed and updated on a regular basis.1,2,5 The three most important areas of safe laser use include eye protection, smoke evacuation, and fire safety.

The eyes are susceptible to damage from laser radiation. The damage may occur acutely or may go unnoticed and develop gradually over time. The type of damage also varies with the type of laser being used. Anyone who enters an operating room or treatment area where a laser is in use (including the patient) is at risk for eye damage and, therefore, should wear protective eyewear specific to the laser in use. Filtering devices should also be placed on operative microscopes and endoscopes. The patient’s eyes should be protected with either the appropriate eyewear or moist gauze pads.1,2,5 The protective eyewear should have inscribed on the side of the frame the laser wavelength that the lenses are protecting against along with the optical density (i.e., the lenses’ filtering capabilities).1,2,5

Another major safety concern with the use of laser technology is the control of the smoke that the laser energy produces as it impacts tissue. This surgical smoke is also called laser plume or surgical plume. Surgical smoke contains extremely small particles of vaporized tissues, toxins, and steam.1 If inhaled, this particulate can end up in the alveoli of surgical team members or can coat the inside lumen of unprotected suction lines if used to evacuate smoke. Even short exposure to smoke particulate and odor from toxic gases may be related to nasal congestion, headaches, nausea, myalgia, rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and respiratory conditions and complications.1,2,5,6 In Ball’s research, perioperative nurses were shown to have twice the incidence of targeted respiratory problems, probably because of the repeated inhalation of surgical smoke.6 In addition, there is a high chance that surgical smoke can transmit viable pathogenic material within the plume.1,2,5,6

Patients are also exposed to hazards when surgical smoke is not evacuated appropriately. Ott’s classic study demonstrated that laparoscopic surgery patients can absorb the byproducts of laser-tissue interaction (surgical smoke), thus increasing the level of the patient’s methemoglobin and carboxyhemoglobin.7 This, in turn, will decrease the oxygen-carrying capabilities of the red blood cells. The patient absorbs the toxins produced within surgical smoke and then exhibits symptoms of headache, double vision, or nausea in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU).7 When surgical smoke is properly evacuated during laparoscopy, vision of the surgical site is maintained, smoke is not absorbed by the patient, and these untoward symptoms are not routinely present in the recovering patient.

A smoke evacuation system with an Ultralow Penetration air (ULPA) filter (to remove small particles) and charcoal filters (to absorb toxic gases) must be used whenever surgical smoke is generated.1,5 The smoke collection device should be positioned as close to the laser-tissue impact site as possible. All persons in the room should also wear high-filtration masks to protect against any residual plume that may have escaped capture. Surgical masks are never to be the first line of defense to protect against plume inhalation. There are smoke evacuators available today that sense surgical smoke is being generated during laparoscopy and will automatically activate the system to gently evacuate the plume without destroying the pneumoperitoneum. There also are other different types of plume removal products that can be attached to the trocar sleeve to help clear the abdominal cavity of smoke without impacting the pneumoperitoneum. If any of these products require a suction line, then an in-line suction filter must be used so that plume particulate will not be drawn into the suction system. The in-line filter must be placed between the wall outlet and the suction canister to avoid pulling fluids through the filter, which would greatly alter its efficiency. Although smoke evacuation devices and supplies are available on the market today, compliance with smoke evacuation recommendations continues to be lacking.

Whenever a laser is in use, the risk of fire is also increased.1,5 A fire can be triggered any time that a reflected laser beam or a direct beam comes in contact with a dry combustible item. The oxygen, anesthetic gases, and vapors from alcohol-based preparation solutions also contribute to the possible danger. All members of the laser team must be trained in fire safety and be able to respond quickly should a fire occur.1,5 All combustibles near the laser-tissue impact site should be kept wet to prevent ignition. Use of flammable draping materials and skin preparation solutions should be avoided.1,5 Sterile water or saline solution should be immediately available to douse any small fires that may occur.1,5

Postoperative Care

A laser procedure does not require any technique-specific postoperative care. The laser is merely a tool that provides energy to cut, coagulate, and ablate during surgical procedures. Patient management should include routine PACU and Phase II care that is geared to the type of anesthesia administered and the given procedure. Specific surgical procedure issues are addressed in the systems-appropriate chapters throughout this book.

Only one type of laser procedure requires special nursing care in the PACU. If the patient has undergone photodynamic therapy for selective destruction of a malignancy, the laser is used to activate a special light-sensitive dye that has been injected into the patient approximately 1 to 2 days before the procedure.1 The laser is introduced intraoperatively, which may be during a laparoscopic procedure, to activate the dye that, in turn, causes singlet oxygen to be formed, thus destroying a malignancy.1 Because some of the light-sensitive dye may be retained for approximately 6 weeks in the skin cells (depending on the specific dye used), the patient cannot be exposed to bright lights or sunlight. Precautions to avoid this light exposure must be followed in the postanesthesia phase and especially if the patient is discharged.1 Sometimes these procedures are performed later in the day so that the patient can be discharged during the evening hours when it becomes dark outside.

Laparoscopic surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is a form of endoscopic surgery with a fiberoptic laparoscope inserted into the peritoneum for surgical assessment or treatment of a wide and continually expanding range of conditions. This surgical approach affords many benefits to the patient and surgeon, including smaller incisions, reduced postoperative pain, decreased adhesion formation, decreased hospital stays and recovery time, and better visualization and magnification of surgical anatomy and pathology.2,8 To understand the history of laparoscopy, one must first examine the origins of endoscopy, which began in ancient times, driven by the innate human curiosity to peer inside body cavities. Speculums were first developed and used to examine various areas of the body, such as the rectum and vagina, as early as 400 BC. An Arabian physician first used a mirror to reflect light and examine the cervix in AD 1012. The first crude endoscope was developed in 1585 and used the sun as a light source for examination of the nasal cavity.9

The 1800s saw the addition of more reliable, but crude, light sources to these endoscopic examinations. The Italian physician Phillip Bozinni developed a device that used a candle for illumination to examine the urethra of a living patient. Later devices used alcohol lamps and a wick. Thomas Edison’s development of the incandescent light bulb in 1880 truly spurred the evolution of modern endoscopy and laparoscopy as we know it today.10

True laparoscopy was first accomplished by George Kelling in 1901 when he viewed the abdominal viscera of a living dog with a cystoscope. Kelling is also credited with creating the first pneumoperitoneum with this procedure.9 Equipment and techniques continued to evolve, and the first laparoscopic tubal ligation was performed in 1941. By 1973, more than 500,000 gynecologic laparoscopic procedures had been performed. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures replaced open procedures within 3 years of its introduction in 1987.9,11 The technology continues to expand today into multiple therapeutic and diagnostic procedures across most surgical specialties. Single-port laparoscopy allowing entry and introduction of instruments through a single port has received much recognition as well as robotic procedures with control of the instrumentation guided by a practitioner at a distant location. Starting in the early 2000s, natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) has gained much popularity as access is gained through a natural orifice (mouth, anus, urethra, vagina) to perform surgery in the abdomen or chest.11 Technology and practices will continue to advance as researchers strive to provide less invasive and more effective techniques for surgical interventions.

Preoperative Issues

Preoperative care for laparoscopic procedures should be focused on the adequate assessment and preparation of the patient. Routine diagnostics and assessments that are conducted for all general anesthesia or surgical patients should be completed. Special attention to determine the appropriateness of a laparoscopic procedure must be evident because laparoscopy, and the creation of a pneumoperitoneum, brings its own inherent risks and problems. A recommended preoperative checklist should include the following (adapted from AORN Guideline, 2020, p. 521)5:

  •  History and physical examination (include age, weight, height, allergies, current medications, alternative therapies, drug use, alcohol/tobacco use)
  •  Evaluation of medical problems
  •  Baseline cardiac status (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure)
  •  Thorough evaluation of respiratory system (e.g., rate, rhythm, blood oxygen level, presence of obstructive sleep apnea)
  •  Baseline neurologic status and sensory impairment
  •  Normalization of fluids and electrolytes (need for IV access)
  •  Previous adverse experience with anesthesia or sedation agents
  •  Antibiotics, if needed
  •  Deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis
  •  Genitourinary system evaluation
  •  Appropriate laboratory and radiologic studies (test results, pregnancy test results, if appropriate)
  •  Informed consent (explaining risks, benefits, alternatives)
  •  Level of pain and/or anxiety
  •  Arrangement for responsible adult caregiving to escort home if outpatient procedure

Numerous relative and absolute contraindications to laparoscopic procedures are well established and the patient should be evaluated closely regarding these issues. Previous abdominal surgery should be thoroughly evaluated and addressed because possible scarring or adhesions can affect the maneuverability of the laparoscope or limit the surgeon’s view of the surgical field. A comprehensive evaluation of the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems is mandated before any laparoscopic procedure because a pneumoperitoneum can greatly stress these systems. Patients with pulmonary or cardiac disease are at particular risk for developing respiratory acidosis, hypercarbia, peritoneal irritation, gas emboli, or cardiac arrhythmias from the presence and accumulation of CO2 insufflation in the abdomen.5 Large abdominal wall hernias, diaphragmatic defects, and previous scars can affect trocar placement. Pregnancy was once considered an absolute contraindication to laparoscopic surgery; however, these procedures have now been shown to be safe and effective well into the second trimester. Obese patients should also be evaluated closely with specific attention to cardiac and pulmonary status.5

Intraoperative Issues

The primary differences between laparoscopic surgeries and their open counterparts are the creation of a pneumoperitoneum and patient positioning, both of which can create patient management challenges during the operative and recovery phases.


The creation of a pneumoperitoneum involves the insufflation of the abdomen with a gas. The most commonly used gas for insufflation is CO2 because of its relatively low risk of venous gas embolism (rapidly dissolves) and noncombustibility.5 Other gases that have been evaluated in clinical and experimental settings include nitrous oxide, helium, and argon, but CO2 gas has been chosen as the preferred insufflation gas for laparoscopic procedures.5

A pneumoperitoneum is created during laparoscopic surgery to allow the surgical team to visualize the abdomen and perform the indicated procedure. Unfortunately, the creation and maintenance of this pneumoperitoneum can have varying effects on the patient and is associated with many of the complications generally associated with laparoscopic surgery. The patient’s position during surgery can exacerbate these adverse effects.5 For example, when the patient is placed in the Trendelenburg position, intra-abdominal pressure increases and respiratory problems can occur, including hypoxia.5 On the other hand, reverse Trendelenburg can cause decreased venous return, reduced cardiac output, and hypotension.5

The pneumoperitoneum is created when gas is insufflated into the abdominal cavity after the Veress needle is inserted through the abdominal wall. A mechanical insufflator with a pressure-limiting function is connected to the Veress needle with tubing to deliver the insufflation gas into the peritoneum. A hydrophobic filter is placed between the insufflator within the tubing to prevent contaminants from flowing from the insufflator into the abdominal cavity and also prevents cross-contamination.5 Normal insufflation pressures are maintained at 14 to 16 mm Hg2 with maintaining an ideal pressure of less than 15 mm Hg.5 Insufficient pressure produces an inadequate pneumoperitoneum and impairs surgical visualization of the target site. Excessive pressure creates even greater cardiovascular and respiratory compromise than that commonly associated with the procedure.2,5 Insufflation control panels should monitor and display the rate of flow of the insufflations gas, volume of gas delivered, and the intra-abdominal pressure.2 High-flow insufflators that deliver 15 to 20 L/min are more effective than those delivering gas at slower rates.2 When higher pressures are achieved in the abdomen, the insufflator must immediately stop the insufflation and release some of the gas if overpressurization is sensed.2

Cardiovascular changes

A wide variety of hemodynamic effects have been reported with the insufflation of a CO2 pneumoperitoneum. The increased abdominal pressure compresses veins within the abdominal cavity and results in an initial increase in cardiac preload; however, true preload is ultimately decreased because of impaired venous return. Cardiac afterload is also increased as a result of the increased abdominal pressure and the resultant neurohumoral reflexes. The most common net effects from these changes include increases in heart rate, systemic vascular resistance, and central venous pressure. Cardiac output drops, and mean arterial pressure may increase, decrease, or remain unchanged, depending on the relative changes in cardiac output and systemic vascular resistance. Hemodynamic monitoring can be used to monitor for pressure changes and myocardial compromise in patients at extremely high risk. Pneumoperitoneum can cause dysrhythmias to include sinus tachycardia, bigeminy, and premature ventricular contractions. When pneumoperitoneum has been established, a resultant increase in the abdominal pressure causes vagal stimulation that can lead to severe bradycardia and possible asystole.2 As stated previously, automatic sensors are available within insufflators that provide continual monitoring and adjustment of the abdominal pressure so that cardiac problems are minimized.

Respiratory changes

The creation of a CO2 pneumoperitoneum has several adverse effects on the respiratory system. Oxygenation may be impaired because of reductions in lung volume and the associated atelectasis that results from an elevated diaphragm. Ventilation may also be impaired and result in CO2 retention and hypercarbia. Other untoward effects include reduced pulmonary compliance, increased airway resistance, and reduced vital capacity. All these effects are exacerbated by the commonly used Trendelenburg position.2,5 These respiratory changes are also further aggravated by the following conditions: surgery that lasts more than 4 hours, a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, age, obesity, and an American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status of III or greater.3,12,13 A summary of cardiopulmonary effects can be found in Table 47.3.

Table 47.3

Cardiopulmonary Effects of a Pneumoperitoneum

Elevated Reduced
Respiratory Respiratory rate pH

PaCO2, mixed venous CO2 tension, alveolar volume Forced expiratory

CO2 tension Forced vital capacity

Arterial-venous CO2 difference Functional residual capacity

Peak airway pressure Total lung capacity

Plateau airway pressure Compliance

Intrathoracic pressure

Airway resistance

Cardiovascular Heart rate with initial insufflation Stroke volume

Systemic blood pressure Cardiac output

Mean arterial pressure Venous return unchanged or reduced

Central venous pressure Bradycardia with maintenance of pneumoperitoneum

Pulmonary artery pressure

Systemic vascular resistance

Myocardial oxygen demand

Modified from Ball KA. Surgical modalities. In: Rothrock JC. Alexander’s care of the patient in surgery. 16th ed. Mosby: St. Louis; 2019; Cicek MC, Kaynak Y, Gunseren KO, Kaygisiz O, Vuruskan H. The effects of laparoscopic urologic surgery on cardiac functions: A pulse wave velocity study. Turk J Urol. 2020;46:303–308; Kassem M, Eman MM, El-Maksoud MAA. Low pressure versus standard pressure pneumoperitoneum in laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Egypt J Hosp Med. 2019;75:2499–2504.

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May 20, 2023 | Posted by in NURSING | Comments Off on Care of the Laser/Laparoscopic Surgical Patient

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