File:Colonic pseudomembranes low mag.jpg
Micrograph of pseudomembranous colitis, an indication for colectomy. H&E stain.
ICD-9-CM 45.8, 45.73
MeSH D003082

Colectomy consists of the surgical resection of any extent of the large intestine (colon). It is also an occasional term used to describe removing the entire large intestine along with the rectum, but the appropriate term is proctocolectomy, where the whole large intestine and rectum are removed.


Some of the most common indications for colectomy are:

Basic principles

Traditionally, colectomy is performed via an abdominal incision (laparotomy), though minimally invasive colectomy, by means of laparoscopy, is growing both in scope of indications and popularity, and is a well-established procedure as of 2006 in many medical centers. Recent experience has shown the feasibility of single port access colectomy,[1]

Resection of any part of the colon entails mobilization and ligation of the corresponding blood vessels. Lymphadenectomy is usually performed through excision of the fatty tissue adjacent to these vessels (mesocolon), in operations for colon cancer.

When the resection is complete, the surgeon has the option of immediately restoring the bowel, by stitching or stapling together both the cut ends (primary anastomosis), or creating a colostomy. Several factors are taken into account, including:

  • Circumstances of the operation (elective vs emergency);
  • Disease being treated; (i.e., no colectomy surgery can cure Crohn's disease, because the disease usually recurs at the site where the healthy sections of the large intestine were joined together. For example, if a patient with Crohn's disease has a transverse colectomy, their Crohn's will usually reappear at the resection site of the ascending and descending colons.)
  • Acute physiological state of the patient;
  • Impact of living with a colostomy, albeit temporarily;
  • Use of a specific preoperative regimen of low residue diet and laxatives (so-called "bowel prep").

An anastomosis carries the risk of dehiscence (breakdown of the stitches), which can lead to contamination of the peritoneal cavity, peritonitis, sepsis and death. Colostomy is always safer, but places a societal, psychological and physical burden on the patient. The choice is by no means an easy one and is rife with controversy, being a frequent topic of heated debate among surgeons all over the world.


  • Right hemicolectomy and left hemicolectomy refer to the resection of the ascending colon (right) and the descending colon (left), respectively. When part of the transverse colon is also resected, it may be referred to as an extended hemicolectomy[citation needed]
  • Transverse colectomy is also possible, though uncommon.[citation needed]
  • Sigmoidectomy is a resection of the sigmoid colon, sometimes including part or all of the rectum (proctosigmoidectomy). When a sigmoidectomy is followed by terminal colostomy and closure of the rectal stump, it is called a Hartmann operation; this is usually done out of impossibility to perform a "double-barrel" or Mikulicz colostomy, which is preferred because it makes "takedown" (reoperation to restore normal intestinal continuity by means of an anastomosis) considerably easier.[citation needed]
  • When the entire colon is removed, this is called a total colectomy, also known as Lane's Operation.[2] If the rectum is also removed, it is a total proctocolectomy.
  • Subtotal colectomy is resection of part of the colon or a resection of all of the colon without complete resection of the rectum.[3]

Laparoscopic surgery

Today more than 40% of colon resections in United States are performed via laparoscopic approach.[4]


Sir William Arbuthnot-Lane was one of the early proponents of the usefulness of total colectomies, although his overuse of the procedure called the wisdom of the surgery into question.[5]


  1. ^ Bucher P, Pugin F, Morel P (October 2008). "Single port access laparoscopic right hemicolectomy". International Journal of Colorectal Disease 23 (10): 1013–6. PMID 18607608. doi:10.1007/s00384-008-0519-8. 
  2. ^ Enersen, Ole Daniel. "Lane's operation". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  3. ^ Oakley JR, Lavery IC, Fazio VW, Jagelman DG, Weakley FL, Easley K (June 1985). "The fate of the rectal stump after subtotal colectomy for ulcerative colitis". Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 28 (6): 394–6. PMID 4006633. doi:10.1007/BF02560219. 
  4. ^ Simorov A, Shaligram A, Shostrom V, Boilesen E, Thompson J, Oleynikov D (September 2012). "Laparoscopic colon resection trends in utilization and rate of conversion to open procedure: a national database review of academic medical centers". Annals of Surgery 256 (3): 462–8. PMID 22868361. doi:10.1097/SLA.0b013e3182657ec5. 
  5. ^ Lambert, Edward C. (1978). Modern medical mistakes. Indiana University Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-253-15425-1. 

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