Krisha McCoy, MS
This is a procedure to remove all or part of the colon. The colon, or large intestine, is the lower part of the intestines. In a partial colectomy, only part of the colon is removed. In a total colectomy, all of the colon is removed.
A colectomy may be done to treat a variety of conditions, including:
For colon cancer, the goal is to remove all of the cancer. If you have a precancerous condition, then you may have prevented the development of cancer. If you had surgery due to other conditions, a successful operation will alleviate or improve your symptoms.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
Your doctor will likely do a physical exam and recommend blood tests.
Imaging tests take pictures of internal body structures. Imaging tests include:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
Your doctor may recommend preparation several days in advance of your procedure. This may include:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
Small incisions will be made in the abdomen. Instruments will be inserted through these incisions. The diseased portion of intestine will then be removed. The two loose ends of intestine will be sewn together. Some soft tubes may be left in the abdomen to drain any accumulating fluids.
Stitches or staples will be used to close the area. A bandage will be placed over the incisions.
In a total colectomy, the entire colon will be removed through the incision. In some cases, the last part of the small intestine, called the ileum, is then connected to the rectum. A small pouch is made from the ileum to store stool. This pouch mimics the function of the rectum and preserves anal function.
With either procedure, you may need a colostomy or ileostomy. In this procedure, an artificial opening will be created in your abdomen, called a stoma. One or both ends of the intestine will be attached to the stoma. This allows feces to exit your intestine through the stoma. It collects in a pouch called an ostomy bag. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent.
A temporary colostomy allows the intestine to rest and heal. When your intestine has healed properly, you will undergo another operation to rejoin the ends of the intestine.
The removed tissue will be sent to a lab for examination. You will be taken to the recovery room and monitored.
About 1-4 hours
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 5-6 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications occur.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
If you have a colostomy:
Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you had a colostomy created, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Cancer Society
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
A patient guide to colostomy care. Northwestern Memorial Hospital website. Available at:
http://www.nmh.org/ccurl/580/761/colostomy-care-guide-09-07.pdf. Published September 2007. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Alves A, Panis Y, Mathieu P, et al. Postoperative mortality and morbidity in French patients undergoing colorectal surgery: results of a prospective multicenter study.
Archives of Surgery.
Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003096-pdf.pdf. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 12, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Colorectal cancer prevention and treatment.
American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at:
http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/colorectal-cancer. Updated June 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Crohn’s disease. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
Updated January 18, 2011. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Diverticulitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2013. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Feo CV, Zerbinati A, Giacometti M, et al. The ideal length of hospital stay in the surgical treatment of colorectal cancer.
Ann Ital Chir.
Inflammatory bowel disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.