Colorectal surgery


Colorectal surgery repairs damage to the colon, rectum, and anus through a variety of procedures that may have little or great long-term consequence to the patient. It may also involve surgery to the pelvic floor to repair hernias.


Colorectal surgery is performed to repair damage to the colon, rectum, and anus, caused by diseases of the lower digestive tract, such as cancer, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease). Injury, obstruction, and ischemia (compromised blood supply) may require bowel surgery. Masses and scar tissue can grow within the rectum, causing blockages that prevent normal elimination of feces. Other diseases such as diverticulitis and ulcerative colitis can cause perforations in the rectum. Surgical removal of the damaged area or areas can return normal bowel function.


Colorectal cancer affects 140,000 people annually, causing 60,000 deaths. Polypectomy (the removal of polyps in the colon), usually performed during a routine diagnostic test (colonscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy ), has been a factor in the declining incidence of this cancer. However, incidence of the disease, as reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2001, differed among ethnic groups, with Hispanics having 10.2 cases per 100,000 people, to African Americans having 22.8 cases per 100,000. Surgery is the optimal treatment for colorectal cancer, resulting in cure in 80% of patients. Recurrence due to surgical failure is low, from 4% to 8%, when surgery is meticulously performed.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, affect approximately 1,000,000 young adults. Surgery is recommended when medication fails patients with ulcerative colitis. Usually, surgery is drastic, removing the colon and rectum and creating an interior or exterior pouch to collect body wastes. Nearly three-fourths of all Crohn's patients face surgery to removed a diseased section of the intestine or rectum.

Diverticulosis, the growth of pouches in the walls of the intestine, occurs in nearly half of all Americans by the time they reach age 60 and in practically everyone over 80. Sometimes these diverticuli become infected and diverticulitis occurs. Diverticulitis may also require surgery to remove part of the colon if there have been recurrent episodes with complications or perforations.


Colorectal surgery is a necessary treatment option for colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and some cases of diverticulitis, often resulting in major reconstruction of the intestinal tract. Other bowel conditions that may require surgery to a lesser extent are hemorrhoids, anal fissures (tears in the lining of the anus), rectal prolapse, and bowel incontinence. Most of these surgeries repair tears, remove blockages, or tighten sphincter muscles. Patients with anal fissures, for example, experience immediate relief, with more than 90% of them never having the problem recur.

Some colorectal surgeons also treat pelvic floor disorders such as perineal hernia and rectocele (a bulging of the rectum toward the vagina).

Types of surgery

There are a variety of procedures a colorectal surgeon may use to treat intestinal disorders. Until 1990, all colorectal surgery was performed by making large incisions in the abdomen, opening up the intestinal cavity, and making the repair. Most of these repairs involved resection (cutting out the diseased or damaged portion) and anastomosis (attaching the cut ends of the intestine together). Some were tucks to tighten sphincter muscles or repair fissures, and others cut out hemorrhoids. Some colorectal surgeons perform a strictureplasty, a new procedure that widens the intestine instead of making it shorter; this is used with patients with extensive Crohn's disease.

Often colorectal surgery involves creating an ostomy, which is an opening from the inside of the body to the outside, usually to remove body wastes (feces or urine). There are several types of ostomy surgeries that colorectal surgeons do. A colostomy is a surgical procedure that brings a portion of the large intestine through the abdominal wall, creating an opening, or stoma, to carry feces out of the body to a pouch. An ileostomy removes the entire colon, the rectum, and the anus. The lower end of the small intestine (the ileum) becomes the stoma.

For all ostomies, a pouch will generally be placed around the stoma on the patient's abdomen during surgery. During the hospital stay, the patient and his or her caregivers will be educated on care of the stoma and the ostomy pouch. Determination of appropriate pouching supplies and a schedule of how often to change the pouch should be established. Regular assessment and meticulous care of the skin surrounding the stoma is important to maintain an adequate surface on which to attach the pouch. Some patients with colostomies are able to routinely irrigate the stoma, resulting in regulation of bowel function; rather than needing to wear a pouch, these patients may need only a dressing or cap over their stoma. Often, an enterostomal therapist will visit the patient in the hospital or at home after discharge to help the patient with stoma care.

Most colostomies and ileostomies are permanent. Temporary colostomies are created to divert stool from injured or diseased portions of the large intestine, allowing rest and healing. Although colorectal cancer is the most common indication for a permanent colostomy, only about 10–15% of patients with this diagnosis require a colostomy.

A new procedure called an ileoanal anastomosis creates an internal reservoir that is sewn to the anus and acts as an artificial rectum. It usually is not used with Crohn's disease patients because their disease often recurs.

Laparoscopic surgery is being used with many diseases of the intestinal tract, including initial cancers. For this surgery, the colon and rectal surgeon inserts a laparoscope (an instrument that has a tiny video camera attached) through a small incision in the abdomen. Other small incisions are made through which the surgeon inserts surgical instruments . This surgery often results in fewer complications, a shorter stay in the hospital, less postoperative pain, a quicker return to normal activities, and less scarring. It is not recommended for patients who have had extensive prior abdominal surgery, large tumors, previous cancer, or serious heart problems.


Some disease or conditions may require a minimally invasive surgery. Other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer may require an ostomy, a more drastic procedure. Determining whether this surgery is necessary is a decision the physician makes based on a number of factors, including patient history, the amount of pain the patient is experiencing, and the results of several diagnostic tests. Due to the lifestyle impact of ostomy surgery, surgeons make that decision with careful input from the patient. Sometimes, though, an immediate decision may be necessary in emergency situations involving injuries or puncture wounds in the abdomen, or intestinal perforations related to diverticulear disease, ulcers, or cancer, which can be life-threatening.

Diagnostic tests

Colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and a lower GI (gastrointestinal) series help determine the condition of the intestinal tract. These tests can identify masses and perforations on bowel walls.

A lower GI series is a series of x rays of the colon and rectum, which can identify ulcers, cysts, polyps, diverticuli (pouches in the intestine), and cancer. The patient is given a barium enema ; the barium coats the intestinal tract, making any signs of disease easier to see on x rays.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy, a flexible tube with a miniature camera, is inserted into the rectum so the physician can examine the lining of the rectum and the sigmoid colon, the last third of the intestinal tract. The sigmoidoscope can also remove polyps or tissue for biopsy.

A colonoscopy is a similar procedure to the flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the flexible tube looks at the entire intestinal tract. For the patient's comfort, a sedative is given.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), used both prior to and during surgery, allows physicians to determine the precise margins for resections of the colon, so that they can eliminate all of the diseased tissue. MRI can also identify patients who could most benefit from adjuvant therapy such as chemotherapy or radiation.

Preoperative preparation

The doctor will outline the procedure, possible side effects, and what the patient may experience after surgery. As with any surgical procedure, the patient will be required to sign a consent form. Blood and urine studies, along with various x rays and an electrocardiograph (EKG), may be ordered. If necessary, an enterostomal therapist will be contacted to mark an appropriate place on the abdomen for the stoma and offer preoperative education on ostomy management.

In order to empty and cleanse the bowel, the patient may be placed on a restricted diet for several days prior to surgery. A liquid diet may be ordered for at least the day before surgery, with nothing by mouth after midnight. A series of enemas and/or oral preparations (GoLytely, Colyte, or senna) may be ordered to empty the bowel of stool. Oral anti-infectives (neomycin, erythromycin, or kanamycin sulfate) may be ordered to decrease bacteria in the intestine and help prevent postoperative infection.


Postoperative care involves monitoring blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and temperature. Breathing tends to be shallow because of the effect of the anesthesia and the patient's reluctance to breathe deeply and experience pain that is caused by the abdominal incision. The patient is instructed how to support the operative site during deep breathing and coughing, and given pain medication as necessary. Fluid intake and output is measured, and the operative site is observed for color and amount of wound drainage.

The patient is usually helped out of bed the evening of the surgery and allowed to sit in a chair. Most patients are discharged in two to four days.

The nasogastric tube will remain in place, attached to low, intermittent suction until bowel activity resumes. For the first 24–48 hours after surgery, the ostomy will drain bloody mucus. Fluids and electrolytes are given intravenously until the patient's diet can gradually be resumed, beginning with liquids only, then adding solids. Usually within 72 hours, passage of gas and stool through the stoma begins. Initially the stool is liquid, gradually thickening as the patient begins to take solid foods. The patient is usually out of bed in eight to 24 hours after surgery and discharged in two to four days.


Potential risks of colorectal surgery are those of any major surgery and usually occur while the patient is still in the hospital. The patient's general health prior to surgery will also be an indication of the potential for risk. Of special concern are cardiac problems and stressed immune systems.

Psychological complications may result from ostomy surgery because of the fear of the social stigma attached to wearing a colostomy bag. Patients may also be depressed and have feelings of low self-worth because of the change in their lifestyle and their appearance. Some patients may feel ugly and sexually unattractive and may worry that their spouse or significant other will no longer find them appealing. Counseling and education regarding surgery and the inherent lifestyle changes are often necessary.

Normal results

Complete healing is expected without complications. The period of time required for recovery from the surgery may vary, depending on the patient's overall health prior to surgery. Dietary changes may be encouraged to prevent future disorders or to manage a current disease.

Morbidity and mortality rates

Mortality has been decreased from nearly 28% to under 6% through the use of prophylactic antibiotics prescribed before and after surgery. Strong indicators of survival outcome or increased complications from surgery for elderly patients are underlying medical conditions. Therefore, the underlying medical conditions of at-risk patients should be controlled prior to a colorectal surgery.

Even among higher risk patients, mortality is about 16%. This rate is greatly reduced (between 0.8% and 3.8%) when the ostomies and resections for cancer are performed by a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon.

The physician and the nursing staff monitor the patient's vital signs and the surgical incision, alert for:

Symptoms that the patient should report, especially after discharge, include:

Stomal complications can also occur. They include:


When a colostomy is deemed necessary, there are usually no alternatives to the surgery, though there can be alternatives in the type of surgery involved and adjuvant therapies related to the disease.



Johnston, Lorraine. Colon & Rectal Cancer: A Comprehensive Guide for Patients and Families. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 2000.

Levin, Bernard. American Cancer Society Colorectal Cancer. New York: Villard, 1999.


Beets-Tan, R. G. H., et al. "Accuracy of Maganetic Resonance Imaging in Prediction of Tumour-free Resection Margin in Rectal Cancer Surgery." The Lancet 357 (February 17, 2001): 497.

"Laparoscopy Could Offer Long-term Survival Benefit over Conventional Surgery." Cancer Weekly (July 30, 2002): 14.

Schwenk, Wolfgang. "Pulmonary Function Following Laparoscopic or Conventional Colorectal Resection: A Randomized Controlled Evaluation." Journal of the American Medical Association, 281 (April 7, 1999): 1154.

Senagore, A. J., and P. Erwin-Toth. "Care of the Laparoscopic Colectomy Patient." Advances in Skin & Wound Care 15 (November–December 2002): 277–284.

Walling, Anne D. "Follow-up after Resection for Colorectal Cancer Saves Lives. (Tips from Other Journals)." American Family Physician, 66 (August 1, 2002): 485.


American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery (ABCRS). 20600 Eureka Road, Suite 713, Taylor, MI 48180. (734) 282-9400. .

Mayo Clinic. 200 First St. S.W., Rochester, MN 55905. (507) 284-2511. .

United Ostomy Association, Inc. (UOA). 19772 MacArthur Blvd., Suite 200, Irvine, CA 92612-2405. (800) 826-0826. .

Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society. 2755 Bristol Street, Suite 110, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. (714) 476-0268. .


National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Ileostomy, Colostomy, and Ileoanal Reservoir Surgery. (February 1, 2000): 1.

Janie F. Franz


Colorectal surgery is performed by general surgeons and board-certified colon and rectal surgeons as in-patient surgeries under general anesthesia.


Also read article about Colorectal Surgery from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Is anyone aware of what could be causing lack of urination without a foley cath after colon surgery???
would the use of nicotine patches affect the healing postoperatively on colorectal surgery.
Two and 1/2 yrs ago, had colorectal surgery due to cancer. There was not an option of repair. I have had to use a pouch etc. over my stoma ever since. That has been a real inconvenience rather than an actual problem. However, this summer, I have developed a hemorried in the area below the stoma. At this time the size has increased to about the size of bowling ball and has been a real bother and now looks like I will have to have surgery again. I have not seen my surgeon as of yet but have an appointment when he returns from vacation.
My question is, exactly what type of surgery can I expect and will this problem occur again???
Thanks for you reply
I had a sigmoidectomy in mid-December 2009 because of extensive diverticulitis. However, I have not been pain free and now it is almost September. I've had blood work, barium enema, CTand a colonoscopy and all have come back normal. I still have bad pain on my lower left abdomen. What could possibly be causing this problem? I adhere to a high fiber diet and take Bentyl. What should I do?
I am having recurring diverticulitis attacks controlled by antibiotics. The area of diverticli is getting larger. I have suffered in the past with ischemic coltis of the ascending colon with no problems for 5 years. I have had cancer of the kidney and it was removed. There is a recurring hernia on the lower right abdomen. Should I be considering removal of the colon affected by the diverticulitis?
iwould like to know how long does it takes for the scar tissue to heal after colon surgery , that result on wearing a bag for the rest of my life I had surgery on 09 02 08 and I still have aches,from scar tissue.
• I had a "simple" external hemorrhoid removal 7/31/2009 which started a nightmare for me. I'm in a lot of pain ever since.
• In December of 2009 I had to have a shincterotomy and a fissure needed to be "fixed".
• The pain got severe and I had to go to the ER in February of 2010 to get an abscess next to my rectum opened.
• One week later I had to get the second abscess opened.
• By the End of February 2010 had a fistulotomy (now the third doctor, ER not counting). And still my problems were not solved.
• On July 12, 2010 I had the second fistulotomy.

In the last two months my doctor tells me that everything has healed well but he doesn't know were my pain comes from. After each examination I’m in more pain and also if I have to pass dry stool it gets worse.

For over one year I can’t work fulltime anymore. The more I'm moving, sitting, standing the worst my pain gets. The only relieve is to sleep on my belly. The pain starts in my rectum and goes down both legs to my knees.
I had an MRI done and the neurologist said he can’t find anything – it’s not sciatica.

Please someone help me – I need my live back!

Monika Kirsch
For several months, I have had severe pain from an anal fissure when having BM's and after for several hours. I have been prescribed Nitro-Glycerin cream to be applied to the internal fissure after bowel movements. My doctor recommends that I may need surgery. If all BM's - normal sized and solid or very soft -- cause me to have to strain a great deal, what type of surgery should I expect? I have been diagnosed years ago with a kink in the end of my colon and it makes it hard for my BM's to move through. Is there anything that can be done about this?
hi i have recently been told that my surgent wond reverse my colotami bag coz my rectal scaring hasnt healed anough and his not sure if i be able to control my bowel movements but i dont understand they kept telling me that everything is healed and they will reverse my colostami then they tell me ohh no we cant reverse it im wondering does any1 here know a good colorectal surgent that is in melbourne victoria that specailises in rectal scaring and sphinter muscel repairing be very gratefully for any possitive feedback
after surgery feels like I have rocks in my colon. painful when sitting. bowel movements seem to be all at night, nothing during the day. eating well. is this normal
the last few week have been filled with pain only nothing to dull the pain..
the pain is just above the rectum ( have sore's )and hurts like hell and then i feel it in my for legs and my one knee give out..don't have regular bowel movement and my belly hurts just under the rib cage and down to my bellie..
For colorectal anastomosis surgery that may not require a stoma, ask your doctor about the CARP method. It's the newest alternative to sutures and staples. It's CE certified in Europe. It can reduce the need for stenosis and laxatives.
My wife recently (5 weeks ago) was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer. She is currently on treatments of radiation and chemotherapy for 6 weeks. Her tumor is fairly large. Surgeon states she will need a colostomy. If radiation and chemo shrink tumor and cancer does not show on diagnostic tests after treatments and the percentages of the cancer returning is 60-65 % (with a colostomy it is the same 60-65%) why would a colostomy be performed ? In addition she will be under the Dr Care reporting every 3 months for the next 5 years. Please help me understand this.

Sincerely..thank you for listening
Hi Johnny, we are on the same chapter, almost. My husband, just 50 was diagnosed with rectal cancer on March 6. Had surgery on March 23. No treatment before surgery but the pathology came back T2N1 (Stage 3, one lymph node out of 16 removed was infected). He has a temporary illiostomey. Turns out the standard proto call is radiation and chemo. He doesn't want radiation and after reading about the collaterial damage I can't disagree. He is now approaching 6 weeks since surgery. We had some setbacks, which slowed things down. Dehydration in the hospital then an infection shortly after he came home. The surgeon said he could
get reattached in about 2 months but if he has chemo it won't be till that is done - MAYBE 6 MOS? I have read about the reattschment and that is a procedure all on its own. This is all unchartered territoy for us. I guess we must take it as it comes and maybe it will all be normal this time next year. What will be the new normal?

I had surgery on the 23rd of April and am wearing a temporary illieostomy myself. I am due to go back for the cat scan on the 27th of June to see if the J Pouch has heeled, if it has I will be scheduled for the reversal surgery. Once that is done we are supposed to be able to live a much normal life in the way of pooping. My take is it will take time for the Pouch to work properly, it will also need to stretch more (which it will do in time) to hold more. I was told that I will go to the bathroom approximately 8 to 10 times a day to start and eventually over time it will decrease. I'm used to that anyways as I had ulcerative colitis for the last 20 years so bathrooms are all too familiar to me! I am now experiencing shortness of breath everytime I get up and walk? Was sent to ER and hospital did all kinds of tests on me and everything came back normal. I'm now trying to see why I'm having this going on. Did your husband have this?
I had a portion of my colon removed due to flat polips. No cancer. But since then my lower abdomen is getting larger and larger. Should I be concerned? Is there anything that can be done to make this less obvious.? Excersize will not help as I have had.a c-section so my stomach muscles are gone. It is very uncomfortable and embarassing.
Other than a face lift or surgery of any kind I would like to know if anynoe has found a cream that either hides wrinkles or reduces them or a cream that acts like a facelift that can be applied around the eyes and cheekbones that really works. There are so many creams out there and it very expensive to test them all. Please help Grandma keep her looks a little longer and perhaps a little money in her pocketbook. LOL
Thomas McCann
I had laporascopic colorectal surgerty in Feb.2012. I am pretty much back to normal with no more diverticulitis. But I notice daily that when I have a bowel movement that the feces is spread all over my rectum and buttocks. It takes a lot of toilet paper to get it cleaned up.Is this something that will eventually get better? I am very happy with my surgery and never even had a stoma. My surgeon was very gifted.I am very grateful.
I had colon cancer stage 4 in 2008. My surgeon joined my bowel and I had no bag.My problem is when I need to empty my bowel it takes 2-3 hours. Is there anyone that has had surgery to widen the bowel area.
brian ramsden
susan nasri
Hello All, I am getting ready to have colorectal surgery in the next ten days. During routine colonscopy, a tumor was found! Supposedly, this was a polyp that turned cancerous! Its in the earlystsge but still scary, trying to decide if I should go with yhe colorectal surgeon from the university or aspecialist from a private practice! I would appreciate any feedback you could give! Thank you, susan
James Nocerino
Need a reply promptly, as the doctors want our answer in two days. They are telling us that my mothers muscles involved with the movement of the large intestines or not working. There are no obstructions, or decease. She is age 88 alert and acts well. Her stomach is extended from gases and stows that can't find their way out. They explained she is not a candidate for the colostomy because it would not help as the bowl is not working. The ileo is the only option or hospice. The medical doctors and the case workers are all suggesting Hospice because her quality of life after this operation would be much of nothing but lying in a bed with someone taking care of her. I just can't imagine consoling her and explaining that they are going to keep her comfortable when she is so alive right now with no decease, strokes, tumors, cancer, etc. Are there no other options in the medical community that can stimulate the colon to functioning.
Shirley Morley
My sister had rectal cancerios Tumor surgically removed.After 8 days she was sent day later she returned to hospital with severe pain. She was in surgery to remove a cyst,she now has a bag. They kept her in hospital for another month.Sent home on Tues. returned with severe dehydration. She now has a line in her neck due to veins collapsed.She was told their is another cyst and more surgery may be required.She has been in hospital since July 10. Is this surgery gone wrong. She was in good health prior to this,she is 67 yrs.old.Piease comment.It is now Sept.26/15
I have a llieomysarcoma of the soft tissue in the left buttock. The doctor says that it now involves the anal area. When he removes the mass he has told me that I will have a colostomy bag the rest of my life. Is there any reconstructive surgery that would allow me to avoid this. I have always been active and would not won't to live life in that circumstance.
My wife had color rectal cancer surgery 7 weeks ago she had to have a catheter for 6 weeks and now that it's out she is in more pain and bleeding a bit at her butt inscision she still isn't sitting everyone is saying everything looks great but how long does this really take .
and we thought the big thing would be her colostomy ( not at all)
Jean Woodard
Praise God, I'm a two time Cancer Survivor(1996,(breast,2006,Cervix). On Sept,2016 diagnosed with Rectal Cancer 5cm ,3cm from Rectal Spincter,Stage one,Grade one . I've just recently had completed 6 sessions Chemo. MRI x3 and Sigmoidoscopy x2 have revealed decreasing size of cancer. Sigmoidoscopy last week revealed scar tissue over entire are of rectal cancer and a new diagnosis of 3 small polpy very close to scarred cancer area. Anxiously awaitin biopsy results (benign or pre cancerous). Are there colon rectal Special Surgeon that could do Spincter Sparing surgery with these problems,Is it even a possible option with this diagnosis?
God bless you and I appreciate your reply.
After 2 years of repeated diverticulitis attacks, I had surgery on 3/28/17. 12 inches of sigmoid colon removed as well as adhesions. No ostomy bag; I was one of the lucky ones.
I'm at week #4 after surgery and still have fatigue, as well as abdominal discomfort and rectal pressure throughout my day. Bowels are random; either too frequent, or nothing at all. After I eat a meal, I feel so full and bloated even though my meals are small. At what point does the pain go away? I feel like I'll never improve. Comments from those who have been through this type of surgery are welcome, Thank you.
Easton Memmott
I liked the tip to ask your doctor if you are reliable for laparoscopic surgery. My wife is getting an operation done on her colon in a few weeks, and she wants to be sue that the recovery time is quick and easy. I will be sure to tell her that we should ask her doctor if she is eligible because that may shorten the recovery time and reduce bleeding risks.

Thanks for sharing this information. There are some conferences happening in which medical specialty would be "Colorectal surgery" and here is one of those conferences the conference details are given below.

MISS is the premiere Symposium for thought leaders and pioneers in minimally invasive surgery. Topics include Hernia, Colon, Foregut and Metabolic/Bariatric held at Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

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