A laparoscopic colectomy provides qualified patients a less invasive, and has a faster recovery than traditional surgery.
“A colectomy removes part or all of your colon, or large intestine,” explains Nadir Adam, MD, general surgeon and board certified colorectal surgeon with Dignity Health Medical Group - Merced. “A colectomy can be an intensive surgery, but most people are able to return to their regular activities after their recovery period.”
Laparoscopic vs. Open Surgery
An open surgery — the more traditional type of colectomy — involves a long incision in the abdomen and the removal of part or all of your colon. A laparoscopic colectomy is less invasive.
“For a laparoscopic colectomy, three to five small cuts are made in the abdomen,” explains Dr. Adam. “We then use a tiny camera to help us repair or remove a portion of the colon. With laparoscopic surgery, patients typically have less pain and a quicker recovery with less scarring.”
Adam said laparoscopic surgery is now the standard treatment of choice versus open surgery, but sometimes during a surgery a doctor may need to switch from laparoscopic to open. “We have the flexibility to change any laparoscopic procedure to open at any time during the surgery if that becomes necessary.”
Typically, patients are seen by a specialist after they’ve had symptoms that indicate a problem with their colon. Diagnostic testing may include a colonoscopy or a barium enema, a CT scan, an EKG, or blood tests.
Colectomies are prescribed for a wide array of diseases, such as uncontrolled bleeding, colon cancer, Crohn's disease, bowel obstruction, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis. Your doctor will discuss with you what type of colectomy you can have and the possible risks. Some surgery- and recovery-related questions you might want to ask include:
- How long will I be in the hospital?
- How long will it take to recover once I'm home?
- What are the risks?
- How will my bowel function afterward? Will I need an ostomy?
- How will my diet change?
Prepping for Surgery
The prep for a laparoscopic surgery will include stopping certain medications, fasting, taking antibiotics, and drinking a solution at home. The solution will help to empty your colon.
Most laparoscopic colectomies require a hospital stay of less than a week. Know that you'll be given anesthesia for the procedure, and that will take some time to wear off.
The Ostomy Bag
After surgery, some patients wear a bag outside their body that attaches to a stoma and collects their stool, either permanently or temporarily. Different circumstances can lead to the need for an ostomy, including risk of leakage, healing needed, or other situations, Dr. Adam said.
Ostomy bags today are discreet. A nurse specialist will provide you support, teach you how to care for the ostomy bag, and answer your questions.
Leaving the Hospital
If you have a laparoscopic colectomy, your recovery time will likely be quicker than if you have an open procedure.
“The beauty of the laparoscopic colon surgery: the average hospital stay is two to three days, sometimes longer if needed,” Dr. Adam says. “Overall, the hospital stay for laparoscopic surgery is shorter than open. This is why patients prefer this procedure.”
Once discharged from the hospital, recover will continue at home. A laparoscopic colectomy takes about two to four weeks to recover, compared to six to eight weeks for a traditional colectomy. Expect to feel weak as you regain your strength.
Nadir Adam, MD, is a general surgeon with Dignity Health Medical Group - Merced and performs open and laparoscopic procedures involving the colon and rectum. To learn more, or make an appointment, please click here.