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Health Information Center

Colectomy—Open Surgery

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Colectomy—Open Surgery

(Total Colectomy; Partial Colectomy; Colon Removal)


This surgery removes all or part of the colon. The colon is also called the large intestine.


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Reasons for Procedure

A colectomy may be done to treat a variety of conditions, such as:

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to other organs or structures
  • Infection
  • Hernia at the incision site

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, excess bleeding, or discharge from the incision or stoma
  • Lasting nausea or vomiting
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Problems breathing
  • Pain or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Problems passing urine or stool, including bleeding
  • Weakness or feeling faint

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as imaging
  • Cleaning out the colon


The doctor may give general anesthesia —you will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

Partial Colectomy

An incision will be made in the abdomen. The diseased portion of intestine will be removed. The ends of intestine will be sewn together. Soft tubes may be left in the abdomen. They will help drain any fluids that build up.

The incisions will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed over the site.

Total Colectomy

An incision will be made in the abdomen. The entire colon will be removed. Sometimes, the last part of the small intestine (the ileum) is connected to the rectum. A small pouch is made from the ileum to store stool. This pouch will replace the function of the rectum.

The incisions will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed over the site.


With either procedure, you may need a colostomy or ileostomy. This creates an opening in the abdomen called a stoma. One or both ends of the intestine will be attached to the stoma. The stoma allows stool to exit the intestine. It collects in a pouch called an ostomy bag. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent.

A temporary colostomy helps the intestine to rest. It will be reversed when the intestine has healed.


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How Long Will It Take

About 1 to 4 hours

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first week. Medicine and home care help.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is 5 to 6 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

After the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give you medicines to control pain or nausea
  • Teach you stoma and ostomy care
  • Place a tube through the nose and into the stomach to give the area time to rest
  • Give you IV nutrition while your intestine heals

During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your incisions

At Home

Recovery may take 1 to 2 months. Physical activity will be limited during this time. A special diet will be needed for about 6 to 8 weeks.





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  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.