Decision Assist

Bowel resection


The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether to have bowel resection surgery. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

This tool is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Work with your doctor to help you make this decision. A second opinion from another doctor may be valuable. Surgery always carries risks, and you should be fully informed about the risks and benefits of this type of surgery. You should also be aware that research evidence is often limited, and the risks of surgery may not be completely understood. For this type of surgery, there is usually no exact right or wrong answer.

Your physician may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to have the surgery rests with you.

What is the surgery?

Your intestines (bowels) are located between your stomach and anus. The intestines digest food, absorb water, and produce feces. The small intestine is about 20 feet long, and the large intestine (colon) is about 5 feet long.

Digestive system organs

Surgery to remove a section of your intestine is called bowel resection. The surgery may be recommended to treat cancer, precancerous polyps, inflammation, diverticulitis, bleeding, a block in your intestine, or other problems.

Bowel resection is performed while you are under general anesthesia. This means you will be unconscious and pain-free. First, a cut is made in your abdomen. The diseased part of your intestine is removed and the two healthy ends of the intestine are sewn back together (resected). Then, the cut in your abdomen is closed. If the entire colon is removed, it is called a proctocolectomy.

Small bowel resection - series
Click the icon to see an illustrated series showing small bowel resection surgery.

There are two general ways to do the surgery:

Key points

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide

Review Date: 4/7/2010
Reviewed By: A.D.A.M. Editorial: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz. Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (11/9/2007).

  • The Clinical Outcomes of Surgical Therapy Study Group. A Comparison of Laparoscopically Assisted and Open Colectomy for Colon Cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 2004;350:2050-2059.
  • Rudy DR, Zdon MJ. Update on colorectal cancer. American Family Physician. 2000;61(6):1759-70,1773-4.
  • Salzman H, Lillie D. Diverticular disease: diagnosis and treatment. American Family Physician. 2005;72(7):1229-34.
  • Podolsky DK. Inflammatory bowel disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2002;347(6):417-29.
  • Botoman VA, Bonner GF, Botoman DA. Management of inflammatory bowel disease. American Family Physician. 1998;57(1):57-68, 71-2.
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