Laparascopic surgery is also known as keyhole surgery and minimally invasive surgery and involves using a laparoscope. What this means is that only small incisions are made, portals are inserted and everything happens at the end of long rods (trochars), so as to speak, viewed on a screen from a fibre-optic camera. The advantages of laparoscopic surgery include smaller surgical scars, shorter recovery periods and reduced pain and discomfort.
Abdominal laparoscopic surgery usually involves insufflating the abdomen with carbon dioxide gas to induce pneumoperitoneum (make the abdomen puff up with gas) - this is to give some space to work in and so that further incisions past the first one (the umbilicus) can be made safely without fear of piercing any internal organs.
The most common operation to be done laparoscopically today would be laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Other operations routinely done by this method include hysterectomy, Nissen fundoplication, inguinal herniotomy, splenectomy and colectomy.
The first laparoscopic cholecystectomy was performed in 1988 and, due to its overwhelming success in this area, most cholecystectomies today are done laparoscopically.
History of laparoscopic surgery - http://www.lapsurgery.com/history.htm