Colorectal surgery is often needed in patients who have growths in their colon or rectum. Removal of those growths helps prevent colorectal cancer. Even if a patient already has a cancerous growth, surgical removal of the growth is typically the most effective way to treat the condition and prevent it from spreading. There may be situations where it's uncertain whether the growth is cancerous until it's removed, so prompt removal and analysis is vital.
The colon, also known as the large intestine, is a 4-6 foot long tube that sits at the bottom of the digestive tract. The lowest 6 inches of the colon are the rectum. The semi-liquid food waste from the small intestine travels directly into the colon. It becomes more solid as it moves into the rectum. Once in the rectum, the waste is stored until the next bowel movement.
During colorectal surgery, a portion or all of the colon and rectum are removed. There are 2 different surgical techniques used for colorectal surgery today: laparoscopic surgery and open surgery. In laparoscopic colorectal surgery, several very small incisions are created within the abdomen. Specialized surgical instruments are then placed in these incisions to perform the necessary removals. In open colorectal surgery, the doctor makes a larger incision in the abdomen to allow access to the colon. Open surgery is more invasive and requires more recovery time, so laparoscopic surgery is the treatment of choice when the patient is a good candidate.
After the surgery, patients stay in the hospital for up to 5-10 days to recover. Pain medication keeps pain under control. Most patients have IV fluids for a few days post-surgery. It's highly encouraged for patients to start moving around as soon as they're able after surgery. This aids in blood flow and helps prevent clotting. Movement also helps the bowels return to full function more quickly. In the time immediately after surgery, patients consume a liquid diet. Patients can resume driving once they're no longer taking pain medicine, and usually fully resume normal activity within 1-2 months. The doctor specifies further instructions to help patients recover in the best way possible.
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