Large bowel resection

Definition

Large bowel resection is surgery to remove all or part of your large bowel. This surgery is also called colectomy. The large bowel is also called the large intestine or colon.

The large bowel connects the small intestine to the anus. Normally, stool passes through the large bowel before leaving the body through the anus.

Description

You'll receive general anesthesia at the time of your surgery. This will keep you asleep and pain-free.

The surgery can be performed laparoscopically or with open surgery. Depending on which surgery you have, the surgeon will make one or more cuts (incisions) in your belly.

If you have laparoscopic surgery:

If you have open surgery:

In both kinds of surgery, the next steps are:

Colectomy usually takes between 1 and 4 hours.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Large bowel resection is used to treat many conditions, including:

Other reasons for bowel resection are:

Risks

Risks for anesthesia and surgery in general are:

Risks for this surgery are:

Before the Procedure

Tell your surgeon or nurse what medicines you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

Talk with your surgeon or nurse about how surgery will affect:

During the 2 weeks before your surgery:

The day before surgery:

On the day of surgery:

After the Procedure

You will be in the hospital for 3 to 7 days. You may have to stay longer if the colectomy was an emergency operation.

You may also need to stay longer if a large amount of your large intestine was removed or you develop problems.

By the second or third day, you will probably be able to drink clear liquids. Thicker fluids and then soft foods will be added as your bowel begins to work again.

After you go home, follow instructions on how to take care of yourself as you heal. 

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most people who have a large bowel resection recover fully. Even with a colostomy, most people are able to do the activities they were doing before their surgery. This includes most sports, travel, gardening, hiking, other outdoor activities, and most types of work.

If you have a long-term (chronic) condition, such as cancer, Crohn disease, or ulcerative colitis, you may need ongoing medical treatment.


Review Date: 3/12/2019
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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