Colectomy is surgery to remove all or part of the colon, or the longest part of the large intestine. The colon may be affected by diseases such as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. In a colectomy, all or part of the colon that is infected, blocked, or cancerous is removed.
A colectomy may be performed by laparoscopic or open surgery. A laparoscopic colectomy requires several small cuts on the abdomen, and uses a thin tube with a camera, called a laparoscope. Laparoscopic colectomies are less invasive than open procedures. For some individuals, a laparoscopic colectomy may not be possible, and instead an open colectomy is performed. In an open colectomy, a large incision is made on the abdomen. Open colectomies typically require longer recovery periods.
After the incisions are made, a portion of the colon is removed, and the remaining ends of the colon are attached to each other in a procedure called anastomosis. Waste can continue to travel through your body as normal. However, in some situations, it may be necessary for the end of the colon to be attached to an opening in the abdomen, called a stoma. This procedure is called an ostomy. Types of ostomies include:
- Colostomy, in which the remaining portion of the colon is attached to the abdominal opening.
- Ileostomy, in which the small intestine is attached to the abdominal opening.
Stomas may be permanent or temporary. If the stoma is temporary, the ends of your colon will be rejoined in a later procedure. Temporary stomas are generally used to allow time for the colon to heal following surgery.
A colectomy may take between one and four hours. Following your procedure, you will need to consume a liquid and low fiber diet before gradually returning to your normal diet. You will need to stay in the hospital for three to seven days for monitoring. Full recovery and return to normal activity may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.