What is a colectomy?

Colectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of part or all of the large intestine (colon). The colon is a long, tube-like organ at the end of the digestive tract. A colectomy is necessary to treat or prevent diseases and conditions that affect the colon.

Diseases and conditions treated with a total or partial colectomy include

  • Intestinal obstruction- Occurs when the colon is blocked.
  • Intestinal perforation- The colon is torn or bleeding cannot be controlled.
  • Crohn’s disease- Removal of the affected part of the colon.
  • Colon cancer- This type of early stage cancer may require a small section of the colon to be removed, while advanced stage cancers may require a larger removal.
  • Lynch Syndrome
  • Precancerous colon polyps – They present a high risk of developing cancer.
  • Ulcerative colitis – A colectomy is required if medications do not work.

Crohn’s disease is treated with a colectomy.

Different types of colectomy operations

A total colectomy removes the entire large intestine. A partial colectomy, also known as a subtotal colectomy, removes only part of the colon. A hemicolectomy removes either the right or left side of the colon and a proctolectomy removes both the colon and rectum.

Open vs. laparoscopic surgery to treat colectomy

During an open colectomy, a long incision is made in the wall of the abdomen through which doctors can see the colon. In a laparoscopic-assisted colectomy, a lighted tube with a video camera is inserted into one of several small incisions made to guide the surgery.

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Risks of colectomy

The procedure carries a risk of serious complications, which depend on the general health of the patient and the type of colectomy used to perform the operation. These complications may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the leg)
  • Infection
  • Injury to organs near your colon, such as the bladder and small intestine.
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs)
  • Tears in the sutures that reconnect the digestive tract.

Preparing for colectomy

In the days leading up to the colectomy, the doctor will recommend that the patient stop taking certain medications. It is also necessary to fast before surgery and drink a solution, such as a laxative, to clean out the intestines. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.