Colon Disease

Colon Disease About Surgery

Types of Surgeries

Traditional "Open" Surgery

If your colon disease is severe, or if you are diagnosed with colon cancer, your doctor may refer you to a surgeon who specializes in operating on the colon. This surgeon will review your medical records and help you and your primary physician decide if surgery is right for you. In most cases, the type of surgery recommended is removal of the diseased portion of the colon — known medically as a partial or total “colectomy.” This operation has traditionally been performed in what is known as an “open” procedure. Because traditional “open” surgery requires a fairly large incision through both the skin and muscles of the abdomen, patients can take several weeks or months to fully recover.

Minimally-Invasive Surgery

Minimally-invasive surgery has become increasingly popular in recent years. With this type of procedure, your surgeon makes several small incisions and then uses specialized instruments to conduct the surgery. Because minimally-invasive surgery means smaller incisions, it may also mean a shorter recovery period, less post-operative pain, and a faster return to normal activities. 

Laparoscopic (Lap) Surgery

Laparoscopic surgery is a form of minimally-invasive surgery that uses an instrument called a laparoscope. The laparoscope is the tool the surgeon uses to see into the body. It allows the surgeon to conduct an operation without the need for a large incision. If you are undergoing colon surgery and your surgeon recommends this type of minimally-invasive surgery, it would be called a “laparoscopic colectomy,” meaning a laparoscopic removal of part of the colon.

Common Questions About Surgery

Q: What would I do to prepare for the surgery?

A: Because the bowel needs to be clean in order to minimize the risk of infection after surgery, there are several steps you must take. Your doctor will detail all of these steps for you. Drinking a cleansing drink also ensures the colon and rectum are thoroughly emptied. Laxatives and enemas may also be included in the presurgical routine. On the night before or day of surgery, you may take a shower. Always be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully when preparing for surgery.

Q: What happens after the surgery?

A: Your job after surgery is to heal. Many people feel better in just a few days. However it is always best to closely follow your doctor’s orders as to what you can and cannot do following surgery. Usually, you will get up the day after surgery to exercise your muscles. Return to normal activities usually takes only a few weeks. Call your doctor immediately if you have any unusual symptoms after surgery.

Q: How long do I have to stay in the hospital?

A: Typically, you can expect a shorter hospital stay with a laparoscopic surgery than an open procedure. With a laparoscopic surgery, you can expect to spend approximately three to five days in the hospital. With an open surgery, your hospital stay will be approximately five to eight days.

Q: How soon can I get back to my normal activities — including work?

A: Typically, there is a faster recovery period — including return to normal activities and work — with minimally-invasive surgery. Generally speaking, you can expect to take approximately two to three weeks to return to normal activities after laparoscopic surgery and approximately eight to twelve weeks after open colon surgery.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.