What is a colectomy?

A colectomy is a type of bowel resection (removal) surgery. During the procedure, a surgeon removes some or all of the colon.

What is the colon?

The colon is another name for the large intestine. Some healthcare providers call it the large bowel.

The colon looks like a long, winding tube. It wraps from one side of your belly to the other, making a square-like shape. It stretches about 5 feet in length.

The colon is a digestive organ. It starts where the small intestine (ileum) ends, and goes across the belly to end at the rectum. It helps your body digest food. The process works like this:

  1. Food enters the colon from the small intestine.
  2. As food moves through the colon, water slowly gets absorbed.
  3. Digested food waste heads to the rectum as stool.
  4. Stool exits the body through the anus when you poop.

Why is a colectomy performed?

Surgeons perform colectomy to remove colon tissue that doesn’t work correctly. Many problems can stop the colon from working as it should, including:

  • Inflamed tissues due to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or diverticulitis.
  • Infection caused by a cut or hole in the colon wall
  • Blockage that stops food or gas from passing through the colon.
  • Disease that damages colon tissue.
  • Cancer in the colon.

Who needs a colectomy?

In some cases, your provider may recommend colectomy surgery as the best way to treat a disease, such as colon cancer. Other times, providers consider colectomy when less-invasive treatment options, such as medication, don’t control your symptoms.

Less commonly, surgeons may need to perform a colectomy to remove a blockage or stop bleeding in your colon. These problems may lead to a potentially serious infection if left untreated. If you have a colon blockage or bleeding, your care team may need to make quick decisions to protect your health.

Colectomy surgery can treat:

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