Having Laparoscopic Colon Surgery
You and your healthcare provider may decide that laparoscopic colon surgery is right for you. How well you prepare can affect the surgery's success. Make sure you understand all instructions your provider gives you. If you're not sure about what to do, be sure to ask. To help get your body ready, you will be given instructions before surgery. Follow these instructions carefully. Ask questions if something is unclear.
Getting ready a few weeks before surgery
- Have a medical exam. Have a full physical exam before surgery, as instructed by your provider. This checks the health of your heart and lungs.
- Ask about medicines. Tell your surgeon about all medicines you take. Ask if you should stop taking any of them. This includes prescription medicines, as well as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other over-the-counter drugs. Tell your surgeon about any herbs, street drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, do your best to quit now. Smoking raises your risks during surgery and slows healing.
- Share your alcohol history. If you drink alcohol, let your provider know how much your drink. This is very important if you are a heavy drinker or have had alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the past. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. But symptoms can be safely managed if your healthcare team knows about your alcohol history.
Getting ready the day before surgery
- Have only clear liquids. You will be told not to eat any solid foods and to drink only clear liquids on the day before surgery. These liquids include broth, plain tea, gelatin, and clear fruit juice. Any liquid that you can see through when it's held up to the light is considered clear.
- Do your bowel prep. To be sure your colon is clear of stool, you'll do a bowel prep the day before surgery. This involves drinking a liquid laxative, taking pills, using enemas, or using a combination of these methods. Ask your surgeon how many hours before surgery the bowel prep must be done.
- Make sure your stomach is empty. Don't have anything to eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery. This includes water and chewing gum. If you take any medicine on a regular basis, ask your surgeon if you should take it during this time. If so, take the pills with small sips of water.
The day of surgery
When you arrive at the hospital, you will be asked fill out certain forms. You will then change into a gown. An IV (intravenous) line will be inserted into your arm. This provides fluids and medicines. You'll meet with your anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist to discuss the medicine that helps you sleep during surgery. Ask any questions you have at this time. Before surgery begins, you'll be given general anesthesia to put you into a deep sleep. A soft tube (catheter) may be placed into your bladder to drain urine.
If open surgery is needed
During the procedure, the surgeon may find that it is safer to change to open surgery. This method uses one larger cut (incision) instead. In most cases, this change happens because of something that could not be seen on scans done before the surgery. It doesn't mean that anything went wrong. Changing to open surgery is done to give you the best result.
During your surgery
- Your surgeon makes several small incisions.
- A long, thin tube (laparoscope) is then placed into 1 of the small incisions. This lets your surgeon see your colon on a video screen.
- The surgical tools are placed into the other incisions. (A larger incision may be made later to remove a part of the colon.)
- The problem part of the colon is removed (resected). Sometimes the 2 ends of the colon are joined. This is called an anastomosis.
- Once surgery is done, you'll be taken to a recovery room.
Possible benefits of a laparoscopic approach
- Less scarring
- Less pain
- Faster recovery
- Shorter hospital stay
- Quicker return to normal activity
Types of colon resection
The idea of having part of your colon removed may sound scary. But part or all of the colon can be removed without causing serious problems. After the section of bowel is removed, the 2 ends are then reconnected (anastomosis). Below are some of the surgeries that can be performed on the colon. The type of surgery depends on the location of the colon problem.
After certain types of surgery, the colon and rectum may need to be free of stool while they heal. In other cases, the rectum has been removed or can't be reconnected to the rest of the colon. In either case, a colostomy is needed. This creates a new opening in your belly area (abdomen) so waste can leave your body. You may need the new opening for a short time or permanently. Your healthcare provider will help you learn how to care for it.
Risks and complications
Risks and possible complications of colon surgery include the following:
- Injury to nearby organs
- Leaking or separation after the 2 ends of the colon are joined (anastomosis)
- Blood clots
- Risks of anesthesia
- Bowel muscles slow or stop, and gas and waste don't move through the body (short-term ileus)