Preparing for and Recovering From a Colon Resection

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • A colon resection is a surgical procedure that removes part or all of the large intestine. This may be necessary in the treatment of some serious medical conditions including colon cancer. Your doctor(s) may also recommend colon resection for a variety of other conditions including:

    Inflammatory bowel disease


    • Actively bleeding arteriovenous (AV) malformations

    Sound like getting part or all of your large intestine is a major deal? It is. But you can help achieve best outcomes, and get back to your old routine more quickly, if you plan ahead, communicate with your team, and recruit a great support network.

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    Good questions to ask your healthcare team as you begin to prepare for surgery include:

    • What should I do to prepare for surgery? Should I be following any special diet? Quitting smoking?

    • Will my insurance cover all parts of my treatment (surgery, anesthesia, hospitalization, etc)?

    • If not, how much will this cost and do you offer any financial assistance?

    • What do I need to do the day before and morning of surgery?

    • What will happen on the day of surgery when I get to the hospital or surgery center?

    • What type of anesthesia will you be using? Are there any medications I am taking or medical conditions I have that might be an issue?

    • Will I be having open or laparoscopic surgery?

    • How long should I plan to be in the hospital?

    • What are the risks of my recommended procedure and is there anything I can do to minimize them?

    Pre-procedure planning also requires that you think ahead to what is going to happen after your surgery is complete, and headed home. Getting a support network of people established who can come visit you in the hospital, help you get home, and assist with any routine chores and errands for a while is a good strategy.

    Once your surgery is finished, you will be closely monitored in a post-operative or recovery unit. You will soon be moved out into a more general room in the hospital. The total length of time in the hospital depends on a variety of factors, including whether the procedure was open or laparoscopic In general, most patients are in the hospital anywhere from three to seven days.
    When you are ready for discharge from the hospital, it is best to have someone drive you home and help get you situated. You will usually be discharged on at least one new medication, including one (or more) for pain relief. You will need to keep bandages clean and dry, adhering to any specific instructions given to you by your healthcare team, and follow up with your doctor within two weeks. You will also be given instructions on diet.

    While heavy lifting or straining should be avoided for several weeks, particularly after open surgery, you can generally return to normal activities (showering, walking up stairs) as soon as you doctor gives you the OK and you feel up to doing so. You should not drive when you are in pain or taking pain medications that impair judgment or make you sleepy. Ask your doctor what this means specifically for you. The time to return to work is different for everyone but most people will feel ready to resume their usual routine within a few weeks of surgery.

  • Generally, symptoms that should prompt a call to the doctor include fever; increasing pain; redness, warmth, drainage, or swelling around the incision.

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    For more on how to get better health within our current healthcare system, check out The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System (HCI Books, May 2011) available now for pre-order at Amazon.


Published On: March 18, 2011