An exploratory operation is a confession, if not of ignorance, at least of incomplete knowledge. Strictly speaking, almost every operation is an exploration, and even when one is most certain of the underlying condition, surprises may be encountered. But as commonly used, the term "exploration" implies uncertainty. The uncertainty may apply to the actual presence of a lesion or only to the nature or extent of the lesion. In the latter sense, the exploration is performed to determine whether or not the disease is remediable by surgery.
In the development of any branch of surgery, progress reduces the number of exploratory operations. Analysis of the history of the patient correlated with the physical signs plus the aid from various laboratory studies increases the probability of a correct diagnosis. But in the early stages, no little help is contributed by the surgeon through exploratory operations.
Through improved methods of investigation, such
COHEN I. JUSTIFICATIONS FOR AND RESULTS OF EXPLORATORY LAMINECTOMY. Arch NeurPsych. 1930;24(2):373-380. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1930.02220140149011