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What to Expect from Colectomy Surgery

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If you have an advanced stage of colorectal cancer or another disease of the colon, you may be offered a colectomy, which is an operation to remove part or all of the colon.

An operation to remove part of the colon is called a subtotal colectomy and an operation to remove all of it is a total colectomy. Proctocolectomy is surgery to remove both the colon and the rectum.

If you’re having a subtotal colectomy, then the ends of your colon will be sewn together, known as a resection. The removal of the entire colon necessitates a more complicated resection called an Ileostomy. The surgeon will make an interior abdominal wall incision and pull the stumps of the large intestine through it and then attach to the anterior abdominal wall. Any waste will then be expelled into a colostomy bag which is attached through a hole in your abdomen called a stoma.This means that you won’t be able to sit on the toilet anymore to empty your bowels, but you will still be able to urinate normally.

There are two ways a surgeon can perform the operation. The first way is by traditional, open surgery by making a six inch incision in your lower abdomen. The newer and preferable way is by laparoscopy. Three or four small cuts will be made, through which a microscopic camera will be passed. This transmits pictures of your colon onto a computer screen so that the surgeon can see what he is doing. He can also pass tiny instruments through the cuts to carry out the operation.

After Surgery:

You will have to spend a week in the hospital to give your digestive system a chance to heal. This is major surgery. You will also need to be monitored by medical staff to make sure you aren’t developing side-effects.

Side-effects include:

• Tears in the stitches that reconnect your internal organs.
• Injuries to nearby organs, such as the bladder.
• Blood clots
• Excessive bleeding
• Post-operative infection
• Allergies or sickness caused by anaesthetic
• Sometime after surgery there is a small risk of bowel obstruction caused by scar tissue.

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EmpowHER Guest

There are around 700,000 Americans living with a type of ostomy presently, after total or sub-total colectomy or a urinary diversion. During the time that an ileostomy, colostomy or urostomy is in place (whether temporary or permanent), great support is available from the national patient support group UOAA via www.uoaa.org - fcomposed of people who have been there and are willing to help you. You can discuss online, read educational material, find a local support group and see when conferences and other events will be held - also subscribe to a quarterly journal if you wish. UOAA is the United Ostomy Associations of America.

February 4, 2010 - 6:45pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Anon - Thank you for writing to us and providing this information about the United Ostomy Associations of America. It's good to see non-profit organizations coming together on behalf of the patient to provide valuable information. If you are affiliated with UUOA I would appreciate hearing from you directly and establishing contact with you on behalf of our members as I sometimes get private questions from individuals who could benefit from working with your group.
Pat Elliott
EmpowHER Guide

February 5, 2010 - 5:19pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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