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What is a colectomy?

female nurse holding anatomical model of human colon with pathology

A colectomy is the surgical removal of all or part of the colon (large intestine) to treat disorders of the digestive tract. These include colorectal cancer, bowel obstruction, Crohn’s disease, and diverticulitis.

A subtotal (or partial) colectomy involves removing a damaged or diseased portion of the colon. A total colectomy involves removing the entire colon. A colectomy may cure your condition or reduce your digestive symptoms.

A colectomy, also called a large bowel resection, is a major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having a colectomy. 

Types of colectomy

The types of colectomies include:

  • Left hemicolectomy is the removal of the left side of the colon. The surgeon attaches the remaining healthy parts of the colon back together.

  • Right hemicolectomy is the removal of the right side of the colon. The surgeon attaches the small intestine to the remaining healthy part of the colon.

  • Sigmoid colectomy is the removal of the lower portion of your colon. This is the most common surgery to treat diverticulitis.

  • Proctocolectomy is the removal of the entire colon plus the rectum and anus. The surgeon may perform this with an additional procedure called a temporary ileostomy. In an ileostomy, the surgeon attaches the remaining small intestine to a new opening in the abdominal wall to the skin called a stoma. Proctocolectomy is a type of total colectomy.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 30, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Colectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine.,52/
  2. Colectomy. University of California, San Francisco.
  3. Colectomy. University of Michigan Health System.
  4. Frequently Asked Questions About Colectomy (Colon Resection). The University of Chicago Medical Center.

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