What is a Gastrectomy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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A gastrectomy is a medical procedure which involves partial or total removal of the stomach. This invasive surgical procedure is performed under general anesthesia, and some special concerns are associated with gastrectomy recovery because the patient may need to make substantial dietary changes. Bariatric surgeons and general surgeons can both perform gastrectomies.

This procedure may be performed because the patient has benign stomach polyps, stomach perforations, cancerous growths, or severe stomach ulcers. Gastrectomy procedures are also used in some types of bariatric surgery performed for the purpose of weight loss. In all cases, the digestive system is rerouted to accommodate anatomical changes, and this changes the way in which people metabolize food.

Post gastrectomy, a patient is often put on a very restrictive diet. In the first few days, nutrition is provided in liquid form so that the patient's body is not strained. As solids are slowly added, their nutritional content is carefully prescribed so that the patient receives adequate nutrition. After a gastrectomy, patients may not be allowed to eat certain kinds of foods, and they usually need to eat far less at each meal because their intestinal tracts can only cope with small amounts of food. Over time, the diet may normalize, but some changes will be permanent.


Prior to a gastrectomy, a patient usually needs to eat a diet which is designed to help clean out the bowel, and medications and enemas may be prescribed immediately before the surgery to empty the bowel. Patients may also need to avoid certain medications to avoid complications. General anesthesia is used during the surgery, and the surgeon may opt for an open or laparoscopic procedure, depending on the patient's condition and the reason for the surgery.

Like all surgeries, gastrectomies carry risks, including the risks of adverse reactions to anesthesia, infection at the surgical site, or rupture of the intestinal tract. Working with an experienced surgeon reduces the risks, as does following care directions to the letter.

Patients often experience significant postoperative pain, and it is important to manage pain properly while also encouraging the patient to move around so that he or she does not develop complications such as clots. Postoperative care also includes nutritional education to help the patient learn about the gastrectomy diet and how to stay healthy. It may be necessary for the patient to attend follow up appointments over the course of weeks and months so that the surgeon can monitor progress and make small adjustments to the patient's diet to facilitate recovery and long term health.


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