A hemicolectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove a section of the large intestine, also called the colon. The colon regulates water in the body and absorbs water from foods consumed. Its other essential functions include absorbing vitamins and processing waste.
The hemicolectomy procedure is recommended when the colon is damaged by either disease or trauma. Some of the diseases that may require a hemicolectomy include colon cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, and severe diverticulitis.
Types of hemicolectomy
The colon is made up of three parts. There’s the ascending colon, attached to the small intestine; the descending colon, attached to the rectum; and the transverse colon, located between the ascending and descending colon.
Depending on the section of the colon affected by disease or trauma, a hemicolectomy may be needed to remove a part of the colon on the right or left side. These are the two main types of hemicolectomy: right hemicolectomy and left hemicolectomy.
If a patient requires right hemicolectomy, the ascending colon is removed and the transverse colon is directly attached to the small intestine. In case of a left hemicolectomy, the descending colon is removed and the transverse colon is attached to the rectum.
Preparing for the surgery
- The hemicolectomy can be performed either through open surgery or laparoscopy. The preparation for the procedure will vary person-to-person, depending on overall health and the medications they are subject to. But a few general steps are the same:
- Your physician will prescribe preoperative tests to ascertain your health condition. This could include physical examination, blood tests, and an EKG (electrocardiogram).
- According to your health condition, your physician may recommend that you stop certain medications that you are on.
- You may have to take laxatives ahead of the surgery. It’s called a bowel prep and helps clear the digestive tract.
- Patients may have to fast for 12 hours before the hemicolectomy.
Hemicolectomy recovery after surgery
- Recovering after a hemicolectomy surgery depends on multiple factors: the patient’s pre-existing conditions, the type and extent of the surgery, and of course the age and physical well-being of the patient. A gist of what you can expect after the surgery:
- Without complications, the procedure requires hospitalization for about 3-7 days.
- Doctors usually encourage patients to start walking after the procedure as soon as possible, which can help decrease the chances of a blood clot developing and to promote good digestion.
- A bladder catheter to drain urine will remain for a day or two after the surgery. Other abdominal drains may also be placed to remove waste from the body.
- Pain medication is administered through an epidural around the time of surgery. Further oral medication may be prescribed as well.
- Diet-wise, patients are allowed to get back to a normal diet according to recovery.
- When the patient is discharged, they will receive specific instructions for further care, which must be followed minutely. These instructions will help the patient return to routine activities like driving and lifting heavy objects after a sufficient recovery period.
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