The large intestine, also known as the colon, is roughly four to six feet long. The colon helps to form stool, absorb water and pass waste out of the body, through the rectum.
The two most common reasons to require removal of the colon are:
- Tumors (benign or cancerous)
- Diverticulitis (inflammation of the protrusions/outpouchings of the colon)
A colonoscopy is generally recommended to diagnose problems with the colon. A colonoscopy is an outpatient procedure during which the doctor inserts a long, flexible tube into the colon to examine it from the inside.
Colonoscopies are recommended as a routine check starting around age 50. They can also be performed at other times in response to symptoms such as rectal bleeding or other changes in bowel habits.
If small polyps (benign growths) are found, they can sometimes be removed during the colonoscopy. But, if they are large, numerous or actually cancerous growths, colon surgery will be scheduled.
In most cases, colon surgery can be done laparoscopically. A few small incisions will be made in your abdomen, and a camera and surgical instruments will be inserted through those. Depending on the location and severity of the indication for surgery, only a section of the colon may need to be removed. The remaining ends of the colon are then reconnected so the colon can heal and resume normal function.
Prior to your colon surgery, you will need to do a bowel prep to cleanse your colon. Following surgery, you'll stay in the hospital for a few days. When your bowels start to resume functioning, your surgeon will help you resume your diet. You will then follow up with your surgeon to determine when you can return to normal activity.