A laparotomy is a surgical incision into the abdomen. It is done in the operating room in order to perform a surgical procedure.

A laparoscopy is a the use of a small instrument similar to a miniture telescope to perform surgery. The laparoscope allows the surgeon to look into the abdomen and perform surgery without an incision.

Laparoscopic surgery is performed more frequently on patients who are otherwise healthy and having simple, elective procedures. Most critically ill patients will have an open incision (laparotomy) because it allows the surgeon a better view of the site.