This is a procedure to remove all or part of the colon. The colon, or large intestine, is the lower part of the intestines. In a partial colectomy, only part of the colon is removed. In a total colectomy, all of the colon is removed.


colectomy colon
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

A colectomy may be done to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Colon cancer
  • Inflammatory intestinal diseases (eg, colitis, Crohn’s disease)
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Trauma to the intestine
  • Diverticular disease—small pouches form in the wall of the colon
  • Precancerous polyps (eg, familial polyposis)
  • A hole in the bowel wall or dead piece of bowel
  • Bleeding from the colon

Possible Complications

If you are planning to have a colectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Damage to other organs or structures
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Hernia forming at the incision site
  • Blood clots
  • Complications from general anesthesia

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Neurological, heart, or lung conditions
  • Age: older than 70 years
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Previous abdominal surgery
  • Infection

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound exam of the abdomen—a test that uses sound waves to visualize the inside of the abdomen
  • Barium X-ray—x-ray exam of the abdomen after swallowing a barium drink and/or receiving a barium enema
  • CT Scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body
  • MRI Scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body
  • Colonoscopy and biopsy—exam and removal of tissue inside the large intestine using a flexible tube with a camera on the end

Leading up to your procedure:

  • Talk to your doctor about your current medicines. Certain medicines may need to be stopped before the procedure, such as:
    • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs for up to one week before surgery
    • Blood-thinning drugs (eg, warfarin [Coumadin])
    • Clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
  • If recommended by your doctor:
    • Follow a special diet.
    • Take laxatives.
    • Take antibiotics.
    • Shower the night before the procedure using antibacterial soap.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home and to help you at home.
  • The night before, eat a light meal or drink clear liquids. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight unless told otherwise by your doctor.


You will receive general anesthesia . You will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

The doctor will make small incisions in the abdomen. She will then insert instruments through these incisions . The section of colon will then be removed through these small openings. The doctor may then sew together the two parts of the colon. In some cases, the doctor may need to switch to open surgery. This involves making a larger incision.

If all of your colon is removed, a colostomy or ileostomy will be done. This will create a path for waste to leave the body. The doctor will make a small opening, called a stoma, in the front of the abdominal wall. The open end of your intestine will be attached at the stoma. The stoma may be either temporary or permanent. This procedure may also be done if your intestine needs time to heal.

Colostomy Pouch

colostomy pouch
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Stitches or staples will be used to close the area. A bandage will be placed over the incisions.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be taken to the recovery room.

How Long Will It Take

1- 4 hours or more

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will have pain after the surgery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine.

Average Hospital Stay

The hospital stay is 5-6 days. You may need to stay longer if you have complications.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

The hospital staff will:

  • Give you instructions about diet and activity if you have a stoma and a bag to collect waste. During the first few days after surgery, you may be restricted from eating.
  • Instruct you to wear boots or special socks to prevent blood clots in your legs.
  • Encourage you to do deep breathing to help prevent pneumonia.

At Home

If you have a colostomy:

  • Limit activity for 1-2 months.
  • A nurse will teach you how to care for the stoma site and change the ostomy bag.
  • Slowly progress from a clear liquid diet, to a bland, low-fiber diet. You will slowly advance to a regular diet.
  • Tell your doctor and pharmacist that you cannot take medicines that are time-released or time-sustained.
  • Do not take laxatives.
  • Drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of fluid every day. Extra fluid will be lost in your stool.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions.

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicines you were given, or that lasts for more than two days
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
  • Pain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other new symptoms
  • Feeling weak or dizzy
  • Pain or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of stool in the colostomy bag
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Bleeding from the stoma
  • Not collecting stool in the ostomy pouch
In case of an emergency, CALL 911.