• Colectomy—Laparoscopic Surgery

    (Total Colectomy; Partial Colectomy; Colon Removal)


    This is a procedure to remove all or part of the colon. The colon, or large intestine, is the lower part of the intestinal tract. In a partial colectomy, only part of the colon is removed. In a total colectomy, all of the colon is removed.
    colectomy colon
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Reasons for Procedure

    A colectomy may be done to treat a variety of conditions, including:
    For colon cancer, the goal is to remove all of the cancer. If you have a precancerous condition, then you may have prevented the development of cancer. If you had surgery because of other conditions, a successful operation will alleviate or improve your symptoms.

    Possible Complications

    Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
    • Damage to other organs or structures
    • Infection
    • Bleeding
    • Hernia forming at the incision site
    • Blood clots
    • Complications from general anesthesia
    Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    Your doctor will likely do a physical exam and recommend blood tests.
    Imaging tests take pictures of internal body structures. Imaging tests include:
    Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
    Your doctor may recommend preparation several days in advance of your procedure. This may include:
    • A special diet.
    • Your colon must be completely cleaned out. A number of cleansing methods may be used. This may include enemas, laxatives, and a clear-liquid diet. You may be asked to drink a large container of solution. It will aid in the complete emptying of the colon. This preparation may start several days before the procedure.
    • Antibiotics—It is important to take them as directed.
    • A shower the night before your procedure using antibacterial soap.
    • Wearing comfortable clothing.
    • Arranging for a ride to and from the hospital.
    • Arranging for help at home for the first days after your procedure.


    General anesthesia—You will be asleep during the procedure.

    Description of Procedure

    Partial Colectomy
    Small incisions will be made in the abdomen. Instruments will be inserted through these incisions. The diseased portion of intestine will then be removed. The 2 loose ends of intestine will be sewn together. Some soft tubes may be left in the abdomen to drain any accumulating fluids.
    Stitches or staples will be used to close the area. A bandage will be placed over the incisions.
    Total Colectomy
    In a total colectomy, the entire colon will be removed through the incision. In some cases, the last part of the small intestine, called the ileum, is then connected to the rectum. A small pouch is made from the ileum to store stool. This pouch mimics the function of the rectum and preserves anal function.
    Stitches or staples will be used to close the area. A bandage will be placed over the incisions.
    With either procedure, you may need a colostomy or ileostomy. In this procedure, an artificial opening will be created in the abdomen, called a stoma. One or both ends of the intestine will be attached to the stoma. This allows feces to exit the intestine through the stoma. It collects in a pouch called an ostomy bag. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent.
    A temporary colostomy allows the intestine to rest and heal. When your intestine has healed properly, you will undergo another operation to rejoin the ends of the intestine.
    colostomy pouch
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Immediately After Procedure

    The removed tissue will be examined under a microscope. You will be taken to the recovery room and monitored.

    How Long Will It Take

    About 1-4 hours

    How Much Will It Hurt?

    Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.

    Average Hospital Stay

    This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 5-6 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications occur.

    Post-procedure Care

    At the Hospital
    • You may need antibiotics. You may also need medication for nausea and pain.
    • You may require a nasogastric (NG) tube for a few days. The tube enters through your nose and goes to your stomach. It is used to help decompress your intestines.
    • Your intestine will require some time to heal before it will function properly again. At first, you will get nutrition through an IV. As you improve, you will be slowly advanced through liquid and soft diets to a regular diet.
    • If you had a colostomy or ileostomy, a pouch will be attached on the outside of your body. Waste material will be collected in it. You will receive instructions about diet and activity. During the first few days after surgery, you may be restricted from eating.
    • You will wear boots or special socks to help prevent blood clots.
    • You will be asked to walk often after surgery.
    • You may be asked to use an incentive spirometer, to breathe deeply, and to cough frequently. This will improve lung function.
    • Your incision will be examined often for signs of infection.
    Preventing Infection
    During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
    • Washing their hands
    • Wearing gloves or masks
    • Keeping your incisions covered
    There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
    • Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
    • Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
    • Not allowing others to touch your incision
    At Home
    If you have a colostomy:
    • You will need to take it easy for 1-2 months.
    • A specialized nurse will teach you how to care for the stoma site and change the ostomy bag.
    • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
    • You will progress from a clear liquid, to a bland, low-fiber diet, to your regular diet after about 6-8 weeks.
    • Alert your physicians and pharmacist that you cannot take medications that are considered time-released or time-sustained.
    • Do not use laxatives, because postcolostomy stools are usually quite liquid.
    • Drink plenty of liquid daily as extra fluids will be lost in your stool.
    • You will need to practice good skin care of the area around the stoma. This will help to prevent inflammation and infection.
    • You may wish to join a support group or seek counseling to help you adjust to your colostomy.

    Call Your Doctor

    Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
    • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, warmth, drainage, or bulging at the incision site
    • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medications you were given
    • Severe abdominal pain
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
    • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
    • Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
    • Not passing any stool
    • Blood in your stool, or black, tarry stools
    • Diarrhea
    • Feeling weak or lightheaded
    If you had a colostomy created, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
    • Not collecting stool in the ostomy pouch
    • The skin around the stoma appears irritated, moist, red, swollen, or develops sores
    If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


    American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases http://www.niddk.nih.gov


    Canadian Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons http://cscrs.ca

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca


    A patient guide to colostomy care. Northwestern Memorial Hospital website. Available at: http://www.nmh.org/ccurl/580/761/colostomy-care-guide-09-07.pdf. Published September 2007. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Alves A, Panis Y, Mathieu P, et al. Postoperative mortality and morbidity in French patients undergoing colorectal surgery: Results of a prospective multicenter study. Arch Surg. 2005;140(3):278-283.

    Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003096-pdf.pdf. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Colorectal cancer. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-care/conditions-diseases/colorectal-cancer. Updated June 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 12, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Crohn’s disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/crohns-disease/Pages/facts.aspx. Updated January 18, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Crohn's disease in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 22, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Diverticulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Feo CV, Zerbinati A, Giacometti M, et al. The ideal length of hospital stay in the surgical treatment of colorectal cancer. Ann Ital Chir. 2002;73(1):13-16.

    Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 12, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review BoardDaus Mahnke, MD
    • Review Date: 03/2017
    • Update Date: 05/07/2014
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