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What is a Laparoscopic Colectomy?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 17, 2024
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A laparoscopic colectomy refers to a minimally invasive surgical technique for colon surgery. In a laparoscopic colectomy, the colon or intestine can be removed or extracted via a series of small incisions. Traditionally, prior to the advent of the laparoscopic colectomy, colon removal required using a single large incision. The benefit of the minimally invasive colon surgery is that it reduces the hospital stay and affords the patient a quicker recovery time. A laparoscopic colectomy may be performed in such cases as inflammatory colon conditions or cancer.

Prior to a laparoscopic colectomy, the patient may require blood tests, an electrocardiogram and x-rays to make sure he is not a poor surgical candidate. On the day before the surgery, the patient may also require a bowel prep. Normally, a bowel prep is done to rid the colon of waste products, so the surgeon will have a clear view of the intestines. In addition, the patient may receive a prescription for antibiotics to stave off the risk of infection that can arise after the colectomy.

To perform the surgery, a small incision typically is made near the area of the umbilicus or naval. This incision serves as the portal for the small camera or scope that will be inserted. Two smaller incisions then are made through which the surgical instruments will be used, and finally, another incision is fashioned where the colon is to be extracted. The surgeon extracts the colon, reattaches or sutures the ends and closes all the incisions with sutures.

Most often, the patient can go home after an overnight hospital stay. If the patient does not feel strong enough to be discharged the day after surgery, he may stay in the hospital for up to two days, or longer if there are complications. Generally, light activity can be resumed the day after surgery, but many patients may complain of shoulder pain. This pain is related to trapped gases that are caused during the laparoscopic surgical procedure. The pain usually subsides after 24 hours.

Although a laparoscopic colectomy is generally safe, complications may arise, including excessive bleeding, wound infection and damage to nearby organs. The physician should warn the patient that although he may be an appropriate candidate for a laparoscopic colectomy, if there are complications, he may end up receiving open surgery. Conversion to an open surgical procedure typically will increase a patient's hospital stay and recovery time.

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