The recovery from a laparotomy procedure varies widely from patient to patient. This is due to the vast number of problems that make the surgery necessary. Generally speaking, an uncomplicated procedure that is a laparotomy and no additional procedure requires 2 to 6 weeks of recovery time before returning to normal activities. This can be significantly lengthened by procedures that are necessary after a diagnosis is made.
Patients who have laparotomies and have more serious underlying conditions (a patient who was in a car accident with broken bones and internal bleeding that requires a laparotomy) may take much longer to heal from surgery. The body is working to heal multiple injuries at once, so the total healing time is extended. Some problems that make a laparotomy necessary may also delay healing. A patient who has cancer may have a more complicated recovery as the treatment for the cancer may overlap with recovery. The same is true when having an additional surgical procedure with the laparotomy.
Once discharged from the hospital to recover at home, it is important that special care is taken to prevent infection and take proper care of the incision. Infection is one of the most common complications of this surgery, so knowing how to identify the signs of infection is essential. Plan to brace your incision when you are rising from sitting or any other activities that increase abdominal pressure to prevent pain, dehiscence and to decrease the risk of an incisional hernia.
Sources: Abdominal Exploration. National Institutes of Health. 2006. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002928.htm
Abdominal Exploration. National Institutes of Health. 2006. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002928.htm