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A colectomy is a surgical procedure to remove all or part of the colon. Your colon, part of the large intestine, is along tube-like organ at the end of your digestive tract. This procedure may be necessary to treat or prevent diseases and conditions that affect your colon, including colon cancer.

There are various types of colectomy operations:

  • Total colectomy – entire colon is removed
  • Partial colectomy – part of the colon is removed
  • Hemicolectomy – involves removing the right or left portion of the colon
  • Proctocolectomy – involves removing both the colon and rectum

Colectomy surgery usually requires other procedures to reattach the remaining portions of the digestive system and permit waste to leave the body.

Who is a candidate?

Good candidates for a colectomy may include those who have diseases and conditions that affect the colon, such as:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Colon cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Preventative surgery if there is a high risk of colon cancer due to the formation of precancerous colon polyps or those with inherited genetic conditions that increase colon cancer risk

What to expect

Colon surgery may be performed in two ways:

Open colectomy – Open surgery involves making a longer incision in the abdomen to access your colon. Surgical tools are used to free your colon from the surrounding tissue and cut out either a portion of the colon or the entire colon.

Laparoscopic colectomy – This minimally invasive procedure involves several small incisions in the abdomen. A tiny video camera is passed through one incision and special surgical tools through the other incisions. The surgeon watches a video screen in the operating room as the tools are used to free the colon from the surrounding tissue. The colon is then brought out through the small incision in your abdomen, allowing the surgeon to operate on the colon outside of your body. Once repairs are made, the surgeon reinserts the colon through the incision.

General anesthesia is used, and patients will need to spend at least a few days in the hospital following this procedure until bowel function is regained. Patients may not be able to eat solid foods at first.

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