Resection is another name for any operation that removes tissue or
part of an organ. Bowel resection, also called partial colectomy, removes a diseased or damaged part of the
colon or rectum. Bowel resection can be done for many diseases that affect the colon, such as colorectal cancer, diverticulitis, or Crohn's disease.
The goal of bowel resection is to take out the part of the colon or
rectum where the problem is. If the doctor is removing cancer from the colon, nearby
lymph nodes are taken out and tested for cancer. Then
healthy parts of the colon or rectum are sewn back together. Bowel resection is
done either by opening the abdomen (open resection) or by
Bowel resection requires
general anesthesia. You may stay in the hospital for 4
to 7 days or as long as 2 weeks after surgery.
Sometimes the two parts of the colon or rectum cannot be
reattached, so the surgeon performs a
colostomy. This creates an opening, called a stoma, on
the outside of the body for the stool, or feces, to pass through into a
colostomy bag. Usually the colostomy is temporary, until the colon or rectum
heals. If the lower part of the rectum has been removed, the colostomy is
When the two-stage operation is done, the time between operations is usually 6 to 12 weeks.
The recovery time after a one-stage operation or after the final
operation of a two-stage surgery is usually 6 to 8 weeks.
Bowel resection may be done to remove cancer or when the colon cannot function normally because of damage or disease. You may need a bowel resection if you have:
Bowel resection is the most successful treatment for invasive colorectal
Up to 12 out of 100 people who have surgery for diverticulitis develop
diverticulitis again.2 But
another surgery is usually not needed.
Some people who have
two-stage surgeries may not have the second part of the surgery to reattach the
intestine and repair the colostomy. This is often because the intestine does
not heal well enough to be rejoined.3
Surgery is not a cure for Crohn's disease. When surgery for Crohn's is needed, as little of the intestine as possible is removed to keep the intestines working normally. The disease tends to return to other areas of the intestines after surgery. In children, surgery may improve well-being and quality of life and restore normal growth and sexual development.
All surgeries have some risks of infection,
severe bleeding, or
complications from general anesthesia.
Possible problems after a bowel resection include:
This operation does not usually cause problems, even in older
people. Age should not be a reason to avoid having a bowel resection.
In some cases, bowel resection can be done with a
laparoscopy. Laparoscopy for bowel resection usually
involves 3 to 6 very small incisions instead of one large one. Recovery time is
You and your doctor will think about several things in deciding
whether you should have open resection or a laparoscopy. These include:
Sometimes a laparoscopic surgery has to be changed to an open
resection during the surgery.
People who have
colostomies need instructions about caring for the collection bag and about
dietary changes that can reduce odor and gas. They also need emotional support,
because many people find having a colostomy embarrassing.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Eng C (2011). Colorectal cancer. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 12, chap. 5. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
Davis BR, Matthews JB (2006). Diverticular disease of the colon. In M Wolfe et al., eds., Therapy of Digestive Disorders, 2nd ed., pp. 855–859. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Harford WV (2010). Diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and appendicitis. In EG Nabel, ed., ACP Medicine, section 4, chap. 12. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker.
October 25, 2012
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
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