Colon Resection FAQs

Colon resections may be performed for a number of reasons, all of them serious, but since this surgery is performed frequently, surgical techniques are constantly improving. As a result, recovery from a colon resection generally proceeds much more smoothly than it did in the past.

What is a colon resection?

A colon resection is a surgical procedure to remove either part, or all, of the colon (large intestine). When the whole colon is removed, the operation is also known as a colectomy. A colon resection is performed to treat, or prevent the spread of, certain diseases of the colon.

When is a colon resection necessary?

Colon resection surgery may become necessary when the colon is so damaged that part or all of it has to be removed. This damage may occur as part of certain genetic conditions or as a result of one of the following conditions:

  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Abscess
  • Injury to the colon or rectum

A colon resection may also be needed to repair a fistula, an abnormal connection between organs.

What happens during colon resection surgery?

Colon resections are performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. The surgery may be performed either laparoscopically or as an open procedure. In either case, the diseased portion of the colon is removed and the ends of healthy intestine are sewn back together. In more extensive operations, it may be necessary for the surgeon to perform a colostomy.

What is a colostomy and why is it sometimes necessary?

In certain cases, it is necessary to allow the colon to heal before reattachment takes place. In such instances, an opening called a stoma is made through the abdominal wall into the remaining tissue at the upper end of the colon and a bag is fitted around the opening to collect intestinal waste. This procedure is called a colostomy and, while frequently reversible, may, in some cases, have be permanent.

What is recovery like after a colon resection?

After a colon resection, the patient will remain hospitalized for a few days to a week and will need several weeks at home to fully recover. The length of recovery time will depend on the patient's overall health and the type of procedure performed. While recovery time is a good deal shorter after a laparoscopic operation, this surgery is not appropriate in every case. Whichever surgical procedure is performed, patients will have to avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting until fully recovered.

Are patients able to eat normally after a colon resection?

Yes, but after a colon resection returning to a normal diet will be gradual. During this period, the patient may first receive only intravenous nourishment. Once food is reintroduced, the patient will be on a liquid diet, then a soft diet and finally a low residue diet to ensure that stools are smaller than usual. As the patient begins eating normally, more normal bowel function will return.

Will further surgery be required?

If a colostomy has been performed as a temporary measure, surgery may be required at a later time to remove the colostomy bag and reattach the necessary parts of the colon. If the patient has an underlying disease, disease progression will determine the course of treatment and whether any further surgeries will be necessary.

Can patients live a normal life after a colon resection?

Yes, most patients have a successful colon resection procedure and go on to live full and comfortable lives. If there is an underlying disease, of course, continuing treatment may be necessary and may require further lifestyle adaptations.

What are the risks of a colon resection?

There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Possible complications of a colon resection may include the following:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Deep vein thrombosis or blood clots
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia or medications
  • Postsurgical infection
  • Damage to adjacent organs
  • Breathing problems
  • Development of an incisional hernia

Most of the time, complications do not occur and patients heal well from colon resections. After approximately 2 months, patients are usually able to resume normal activities.

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