What is a Bowel Resection?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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Bowel resection refers to a surgical procedure performed to remove a portion of the large bowel or intestine because of disease. Bowel resection is also referred to as colon resection or colectomy. The large intestine, or large bowel, is a component of the digestive system. The major function of the large intestine is to store waste, and it is responsible for absorbing vitamins.

Typically, bowel resection may be performed if diseases, such as cancer, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis, are present. In addition to these conditions, bowel resection surgery may also be ordered in the event of obstruction or blockage. Rarely, traumatic bowel injuries may necessitate a bowel resection; this surgery, however, is reserved for only the most extreme cases of injury to the bowel. Occasionally, genetic conditions may cause predisposition to bowel cancer and preventive bowel surgery may reduce the risk.

Surgical resection of the bowel may be performed via colectomy or by laparoscopic surgery. Typically, the open method of bowel resection entails an abdominal incision, where the surgeon can view and access the diseased bowel for removal and resection. The amount of intestine removed is dependent upon the reason for the surgery. After the affected portion of the bowel is removed, it is then reattached via staples or sutures.


Occasionally, the bowel will need to rest while it is healing, therefore a colostomy may be fashioned. A colostomy is an opening in the abdomen which allows a portion of the colon to protrude into a colostomy bag. Stool is then passed into the bag for emptying a few times a day. Colostomies may be permanent or temporary. Sometimes, laparoscopic bowel surgery will be performed. This is a less-invasive procedure which involves shorter recovery time. Pain may also be reduced with laparoscopic bowel surgery.

Generally, the postoperative bowel resection patient will be given fluids and nutrients intravenously until he can gradually receive food and fluids orally. Usually, after the patient begins tolerating oral fluids, he may be given solid foods. Typically, the bowel resection surgical patient will remain hospitalized for about a week, depending on whether the surgery was open or minimally invasive.

The patient generally is told to report difficulty breathing, excessive bleeding or signs of infection to the physician immediately. Signs of infection may include fever, chills, and draining from the surgical site. Swelling and redness at the surgical site may also indicate an infection. Rarely, a blood clot or embolism may form as a result of the surgery. This is a medical emergency, and if the patient experiences shortness of breath or chest pain, he should seek emergency medical attention.


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