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What is an open colectomy?

A colectomy (sometimes called a hemicolectomy, partial colectomy, or segmental resection) removes part of the colon, as well as nearby lymph nodes. The surgery is referred to as an open colectomy if it is done through a single incision in the abdomen.
The day before surgery, you will most likely be told to completely empty your bowel. This is done with a bowel preparation, which may consist of laxatives and enemas. Just before the surgery, you will be given general anesthesia, which puts you into a deep sleep.
During the surgery, your surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen. He or she will remove the part of the colon with the cancer and a small segment of normal colon on either side of the cancer. Usually, about one-fourth to one-third of your colon is removed, but more or less may be removed depending on the exact size and location of the cancer. The remaining sections of your colon are then reattached. Nearby lymph nodes are removed at this time as well. Most experts feel that taking out as many nearby lymph nodes as possible is important, but at least 12 should be removed.
When you wake up after surgery, you will have some pain and probably will need pain medicines for 2 or 3 days. For the first couple of days, you will be given intravenous (IV) fluids. During this time you may not be able to eat or you may be allowed limited liquids, as the colon needs some time to recover. But a colon resection rarely causes any major problems with digestive functions, and you should be able to eat solid food again in a few days.
It's important that you are as healthy as possible for this type of major surgery, but in some cases an operation may need to be done right away. If the tumor is large and has blocked your colon, it may be possible for the doctor to use a colonoscope to put a stent (a hollow metal or plastic tube) inside the colon to keep it open and relieve the blockage for a short time and help prepare for surgery a few days later.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.