Colon surgery includes several procedures that help with issues affecting the colon. It usually involves removing part or all of the colon.

The colon is another name for the large intestine. It helps in the digestion process, removing nutrients and preparing solid waste for removal from the body.

Colon surgery involves removing all or part of the colon. The procedure typically requires a hospital stay and several weeks to recover.

This article reviews colon surgery, what to expect from different types of this surgery, the outlook after the procedure, and more.

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A doctor may recommend colon surgery for several conditions affecting this part of the body.

The colon is the longest part of the large intestine. It is responsible for helping remove some liquid, electrolytes, and nutrients before forming the solid waste into stool and releasing it from the body.

Doctors may perform colon surgery to help correct an issue with the colon. Reasons for surgery include:

Below are some common types of colon surgery.

A right hemicolectomy is one of two types of hemicolectomies. A hemicolectomy is a surgery that aims to remove a portion of the large intestine or colon.

Ducting a right hemicolectomy, the surgeon removes the ascending colon, the part of the colon that attaches to the end of the small intestine. Once they remove it, the surgeon will attach the small intestine to the transverse colon, the part that goes across the abdomen.

A doctor may recommend a right hemicolectomy for conditions affecting that portion of the large intestine. These conditions may include:

  • trauma or injury
  • diverticulitis
  • cancer
  • IBD
  • polyps, which are growths that may become cancerous

This surgery is common for treating colon cancer.

Doctors use left hemicolectomies primarily for treating colon cancer. They may also recommend it for other conditions, including IBD, diverticulitis, trauma, or polyp removal.

During a left hemicolectomy, a surgeon removes the descending colon — the part of the colon attached to the rectum. The surgeon will then attach the transverse colon directly to the rectum.

Learn more about hemicolectomy here.

A subtotal colectomy is also known as a partial colectomy or segmental resection that removes only a portion of the colon. During the procedure, a surgeon will remove between one-quarter to one-third of the colon and then reattach the severed ends.

The surgeon will remove the affected section of the colon. They may recommend its use for cancer, IBD, trauma, polyps, or diverticulitis.

Learn more about colectomy here.

Lower anterior resection is a type of surgery to remove rectal cancer.

During the procedure, the surgeon will remove the part of the rectum containing the cancer. They will then attach the end of the large intestine to the remaining section of the rectum to allow for regular bowel movements.

An abdominal perineal resection is a surgery to remove rectal or anal cancer.

During the procedure, the surgeon will remove:

  • the rectum
  • the anus
  • the lower part of the colon

Since the surgeon will remove the anus and rectum, they will bring the lower part of the colon outside of the body and attach a pouch to it. This is known as a colostomy. The pouch will collect stool, and a person can conceal it underneath clothing.

A member of the care team will review how to care for the colostomy and explain everything a person needs to know about it.

Learn more about colostomy here.

A person should follow the doctor’s instructions before their procedure. They will advise when a person should:

  • discontinue food or drink
  • stop drinking or smoking
  • stop medications

Before surgery, an individual should review all their medications with their doctor. They can better advise when and if to stop taking them leading up to the surgery.

The healthcare facility should provide instructions about the procedure. They will likely include information such as:

  • when to arrive
  • the time of the procedure
  • the recommended hospital stay
  • specific instructions for what to do in the days and weeks leading up to the surgery

A person should use the appointments leading up to the surgery to ask any questions they may have. This can help ease concerns and provide as much information as possible about what to expect.

Individuals should arrange for transportation to and from the hospital. Depending on the surgery, they should anticipate a hospital stay of a few days while they recover. They should consider packing an overnight bag with a change of clothes, toothbrush, and other items they may want in the hospital.

Immediately following the procedure, a person will usually need to recover in the hospital for a few days. During this time, the healthcare team will:

  • provide medications to help ease pain
  • check for infections
  • monitor the person’s overall health

The healthcare team should provide detailed instructions on follow-up care, which may include:

  • how to care for the wound
  • caring for the colostomy
  • which medications to take and when
  • exercise or foods to include or avoid
  • when to return to typical activities

A person should anticipate staying 2–4 days in the hospital and taking several weeks to recover.

Several factors can affect a person’s outlook following colon surgery. They include:

  • the type of procedure
  • the condition they have
  • their age
  • their overall health

Surgeons can perform some surgeries laparoscopically, which refers to using “keyhole” surgery. This method generally leads to quicker recovery times because the incisions are far smaller.

All surgeries carry risks such as adverse reactions to anesthetic medications. Although colon surgeries differ, they carry similar risks. For example, the risks of colostomy include:

  • bleeding during surgery
  • organ damage
  • infection
  • narrowing of the colostomy opening
  • scar tissue that can cause a blockage in the intestines
  • skin irritation
  • wound opening
  • developing a hernia at the incision site

A person should talk about the risks of surgery with a doctor before the procedure.

Surgery is often an expensive treatment option. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total cost of treating newly diagnosed colorectal cancer is between $40,000 and $80,000, depending on the cancer stage. Surgery constitutes a significant portion of the cost.

While insurance and Medicare may assist, they may not always be enough to fully help a person pay for their surgery. However, some nonprofit organizations may help financially. Some options include:

Colon surgery usually involves removing part or all of the colon.

Surgeries may help treat colon cancer, rectal cancer, anal cancer, diverticulitis, polyps, and other conditions that affect the colon.

Recovery can take several weeks, and the outlook will vary according to the procedure, a person’s age and health, and the condition it is treating.

People may be eligible for financial assistance to pay for colon surgery.