Whenever there is a problem with the large intestine doctor’s perform a colonoscopy, which is a test to find out of there are blockages or other serious issues with the colon. If something serious is found and results indicate that part or all of the colon must be removed, a colectomy is performed.

When it comes to colectomy surgery, there is not just one way to do it. A total colectomy, of course, removes the entire colon and a partial, or subtotal, only removes part of it. A hemicolectomy removes only the right or left part of the colon while a proctocolectomy means removing both the colon and the rectum. After surgery there is still the matter of being able to excrete waste from the body, which is why the remainder of the colon and digestive system must be reattached.

Problems that typically require a colectomy include bleeding that cannot otherwise be stopped, obstruction, and cancer. A doctor may also recommend one if if medication does not control Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Other times, surgery is recommended for patients that have repeated complications from diverticulitis. Some patients even choose to consult their doctors about having a colectomy as a preventative measure.

In the case of using a colectomy as a preventative method, it is usually recommended for patients that have experienced a high number of colon polyps, which puts them at higher risk for developing cancer. There are also some genetic factors that greatly increase the risk of colon cancer, things like Lynch syndrome. For these things, a colectomy can be used to prevent cancer.

Colectomy image
Colectomy image

As with any surgery, however, there are risks for complications unrelated to the disease that caused the surgery. Risks include bleeding, blood clots in the legs or lungs, serious infection, injury to other organs, or damage to other parts of the digestive tract. Risks are, of course, not limited to just those possibilities. A patient will spend some time in the hospital following surgery to make sure no complications develop.