What is a low anterior resection?

Some stage I rectal cancers and most stage II or III cancers in the upper third of the rectum (close to where it connects with the colon) can be removed by low anterior resection. In this operation, the part of the rectum containing the tumor is removed without affecting the anus. The colon is then attached to the remaining part of the rectum so that after the surgery, you will move your bowels in the usual way.
A low anterior resection is like most abdominal operations. You will most likely be instructed to take laxatives and enemas before surgery to completely clean out the intestines. Just before surgery, you will be given general anesthesia, which puts you into a deep sleep. The surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen. Then the surgeon removes the cancer and a margin of normal tissue on either side of the cancer, along with nearby lymph nodes and fatty and fibrous tissue around the rectum. The colon is then reattached to the rectum that is remaining so that a permanent colostomy is not necessary. If radiation and chemotherapy have been given before surgery, it is common for a temporary ileostomy to be made (where the last part of the small intestine -- the ileum -- is brought out through a hole in the abdominal wall). Usually this can be reversed (the intestines reconnected) about 8 weeks later.
The usual hospital stay for a low anterior resection is 4 to 7 days, depending on your overall health. Recovery time at home may be 3 to 6 weeks.

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