Small Bowel Resection

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Learn more about how small bowel resection can improve your digestive health.

What do the small bowels do?
Small bowels (or small intestines) have an important function in the digestive system – they absorb nutrients from what you eat and drink. The small bowels also move waste products to the large intestines.

Causes for small bowel resection
When your bowels become blocked or you suffer from certain bowel diseases, you may need to have the damaged part of your small intestines removed. That surgical procedure is small bowel resection.

While reasons for small bowel resection can vary, some of the conditions include:

  • Injuries to the small bowel
  • Infected or severe ulcers in the small intestine
  • Intestinal blockage (from birth defects or scar tissue)
  • Benign tumors
  • Precancerous polyps
  • Cancer

Some bowel conditions or diseases can require surgery. They include:

  • Inflammation of the ileum (the longest part of the small bowel)
  • Inflammation of the intestine, caused by viral or bacterial infections
  • Crohn’s disease

As with any surgery, there are potential risks associated with a small bowel resection.

General risks include:

  • Blood clots
  • Breathing problems
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Risks more directly related to the small bowel resection include:

  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Bleeding in the stomach
  • Collecting of pus in the abdomen (possibly requiring draining)
  • Incisional hernia (intestines pushing through your stomach incision)
  • Scar tissue that forms an intestinal blockage
  • Problems absorbing nutrients in the small bowel
  • Problems with stoma
  • Infection of the incision

Preparing for a small bowel resection
Your doctor will do a physical exam prior to the small bowel resection. This may include blood test, x-rays of your chest and abdomen, and/or a CT scan of your abdomen. If you’re taking any medicines, especially blood thinners, you will need to
let your doctor know. It is also recommended that you stop smoking at least a few weeks before the small bowel resection.

High-fiber diets and plenty of water will help with digestion in the weeks leading up to the surgery. A liquid diet of water, clear juice, and broth will be required before surgery. Clearing out the bowels is also important for the small bowel resection, so you may need to take a laxative to expedite waste removal.

Be sure to follow the surgeon’s instructions for the day and night before surgery.

Types of small bowel resection
The two types of small bowel resection include open surgery and laparoscopic surgery.

Open surgery involves a six-inch incision in the abdomen. The part of your small intestine that needs to be removed will be clamped off and removed.

The less invasive surgery is laparoscopic meaning only three to five small incisions are made. During this surgery, your stomach will be inflated with gas to improve the surgeon’s vision. Special lights, cameras, and tools help the surgeon identify the affected area, clamp it, and remove that part of the small bowels. Use of robotic assistance has become more common with this type of surgery.

Regardless of the type of small bowel resection, the surgeon usually tries to join together the healthy small bowels that remain after removing the affected area. Sometimes the small bowels cannot be connected again, and the surgeon will implement an ileostomy. This means that the surgeon creates a stoma (or opening) in your stomach. Then, the surgeon attaches the part of the small bowel that is closest to your stomach wall to the stoma. The small bowel drains through the stoma into a drainage bag or pouch, located outside of the body. While this can be temporary to allow the small bowels to heal, it is permanent for some small bowel resection patients.

Recovery after a small bowel resection
Small bowel resection is a serious surgery, so hospital stays post-surgery can last five to seven days. If complications occur, your surgeon may recommend that you stay longer.

After returning home, you should follow your doctor’s orders to ensure a good recovery from the small bowel resection. You need to wait to bathe, do heavy lifting, or drive until instructed that it is safe to do so.

If you are interested in small bowel resection, call us to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.

General Surgeons

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