What Affects Recovery from the Hartmann Procedure?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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There are numerous factors which may impact recovery after the Hartmann procedure, primarily the patient's overall health and the reason for having surgery to being with. Simpler and reversible illnesses or conditions may result in a shorter healing time and faster recovery. Those with cancer and other chronic or life-threatening conditions may take longer to recuperate. There is often no way to know ahead of time exactly how each patient will respond to the procedure.

The Hartmann procedure is one in which a portion of the bowel, colon, and sometimes rectum is surgically remove. The remaining intestines are rerouted and attached to a stoma, or opening, in the abdomen. A colostomy, or external sac, is then attached to this opening to allow fecal matter to exit the body. Patients are then put on a liquid diet for several days until the body adjusts. Some may be able to have the procedure reversed at a later time.

When the procedure is planned for well in advance, patients are often tested for overall health before the Hartmann procedure is performed. Sometimes this is not possible due to an emergency situation, such a bowel obstruction, in which the surgery must be performed quickly. The patient's overall health is one factor which may impact recovery. Reversible ailments, such as an obstruction, may warrant better results than more chronic conditions.


Those who are in poor health prior to the procedure may have a higher risk of complications. Problems can include infection, bleeding, heart irregularities and reactions to anesthesia. Elderly patients or those who are very young may also have a longer recovery process, as they often have weaker or underdeveloped immune systems.

Cancer patients may also have a longer recovery after the Hartmann procedure because additional treatments are often needed following the operation. For instance, those with highly progressed stages of colon cancer may have to have chemotherapy or radiation following surgery. These treatments can often lead to additional risks for complications and side effects.

Patients may be able to shorten recovery time by following doctors' instructions carefully. The colostomy should be emptied frequently, especially at first, and bed rest is essential for proper healing. Symptoms of infection should be reported immediately so that it can be treated for it becomes more serious. When possible, patients should be stabilized prior to surgery.


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