Digestive Health

Updated 09 May 2017

Large bowel resection

Large bowel resection, also known as colectomy, is surgery to remove part of the large bowel.


Large bowel resection, also known as colectomy, is surgery to remove part of the large bowel. The large bowel connects the small intestine to the anus. It is also called the large intestine or colon.

In most cases, the bowel is cleaned before the surgery with enemas and medication.

The surgery is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. A cut is made in the abdomen. The diseased part of the large bowel is removed and the two healthy ends of the bowel are sewn back together (resected). The cut is closed. If the entire colon and rectum is removed, it is called a proctocolectomy.

A bowel resection may be performed as a traditional "open" procedure or as a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure.

To help your bowel heal, a temporary opening of the colon through the abdominal wall may be created. This is called a colostomy. The end of the bowel near the small intestine is then passed through the abdominal wall, and stitched in place. A drainage bag (stoma appliance) is placed around the opening.

In most cases, the colostomy is temporary and can be closed with another operation at a later date. If a large portion of the bowel is removed, the colostomy may be permanent.

The large bowel absorbs a significant amount of water from digested food. When the colon is bypassed by a colostomy, loose or liquid stool (feaces) will collect in the drainage bag. Careful skin care and a well-fitting colostomy bag are necessary to reduce skin irritation around the colostomy.

Source: National Institute of Health (NIH)

- February 2009


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Dr. Estelle Wilken is a Senior Specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology at Tygerberg Hospital. She obtained her MBChB in 1976, her MMed (Int) in 1991 and her gastroenterology registration in 1995.

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