If you have a severe gastrointestinal disorder or injury, you may need small bowel resection surgery. This procedure removes the damaged or diseased portion of your small bowel (intestine) and typically doesn’t affect digestive system functioning. It’s for people with advanced Crohn’s disease, congenital malformations, hernias and more.
A resection removes the damaged or diseased portion your small bowel (intestine). The procedure is also known as a small intestine resection. Some surgeries remove a small part, while other resections are more extensive sections.
Your small bowel is 20 to 30 feet long. It consists of many tissue layers that twist and fold. This organ is where your body absorbs nutrients from the foods you eat. Removing a section of tissue typically doesn’t affect intestinal functioning.
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This procedure is for people with severe gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. They include:
You may need a resection if the GI condition doesn’t respond to conservative treatments. These include medications or a special diet. In life-threatening cases, like an obstruction, immediate surgical treatment is necessary.
By removing the diseased or damaged part of your small bowel, you can restore its function and prevent complications like malnutrition.
For advanced gastrointestinal disease or injuries, you may also need nearby tissue removed. For example, people with Crohn’s disease complications may need an ileocecal resection.
This procedure may remove part of your:
Depending on why you need a resection, a general or colorectal surgeon may perform the procedure.
Many surgical techniques are available:
If it isn’t an emergency, preparing for small bowel resection surgery includes labs and imaging studies to ensure you’re healthy enough for the procedure. You’ll need to stop certain daily medications, like blood thinners, aspirin or anti-inflammatories.
In the days leading up to surgery, you’ll also need to clear your bowels. This starts with eating high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of water to encourage bowel movements. As the procedure gets closer, you’ll need to switch to a clear liquid diet. You may also need an enema or laxatives.
Here’s what to expect during your procedure:
The next steps of your procedure may include:
Resection surgery may prevent severe gastrointestinal issues from worsening. This can help you avoid more extensive treatments like a larger resection. Preserving as much intestinal tissue as possible can help you avoid life-altering complications like short bowel syndrome.
The procedure has many risks, including:
Intestinal tissue is very delicate. Significant changes, like removing tissue, disrupt nerves and muscles that help it function. Your body may move nutrients along faster than usual. Or your intestines may need time to adjust the digestive process to bowels that are now shorter.
You’ll stay in the hospital for a few days. At the start of your recovery, the intestines will need to rest, so you won’t be able to consume food by mouth. Instead, you receive nutrients through tube feeding (enteral nutrition). As you start feeling better, you can consume fluids and soft foods by mouth.
After discharge, you should continue resting for a few days. It’s essential to get out of bed periodically and walk to prevent blood clots. Care may also include follow-up appointments with your surgeon to ensure your recovery is on track.
Recovery typically takes a few months. However, most people feel well enough to resume daily activities within a few weeks.
A resection provides long-lasting relief. For traumatic injuries and congenital conditions, the procedure can be curative. But it isn’t always a permanent fix. Conditions like hernias and Crohn’s disease can come back, sometimes requiring an additional resection.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Small bowel resection is a surgery that removes the damaged or diseased portion of your small bowel (intestine). It may be an open, robotic, or laparoscopic procedure. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove or repair tissue from nearby organs, as well. Although it might be hard to imagine life without a section of your small bowel, it’s 20 to 30 feet long. Once your body adjusts, it’s likely that you won’t miss it.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/10/2023.
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