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Open Colectomy


  • An open colectomy is surgery to remove some or all of your colon. The colon is the long tube that connects the small bowel with the anus. The colon absorbs water from digested foods and turns the digested food into stool. It stores the stool until it passes out through your anus. Your caregiver may have told you that you need an open colectomy because you have cancer. You may also need an open colectomy if you have a bowel obstruction. You may also need an open colectomy if you have a disease that causes bleeding, infection, or swelling.

  • During your colectomy, your caregiver will cut your abdomen and remove part or all of your colon. If you have cancer, your caregiver will look at your nearby organs and body tissue. He will check to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Having an open colectomy may help you be in less pain. Your swelling may go away and you may stop bleeding. It may be easier for your stool to travel through your bowels. If you have cancer, an open colectomy may remove part or all of the cancer from your body. An open colectomy may improve the quality of your daily life.


Take your medicine as directed.

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Anticoagulants are a type of blood thinner medicine that helps prevent clots. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. These medicines may cause you to bleed or bruise more easily.
    • Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth and a soft toothbrush. If you shave, use an electric razor. Avoid activities that can cause bruising or bleeding.
    • Tell your caregiver about all medicines you take because many medicines cannot be used with anticoagulants. Do not start or stop any medicines unless your caregiver tells you to. Tell your dentist and other caregivers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
    • You will need regular blood tests so your caregiver can decide how much medicine you need. Take anticoagulants exactly as directed. Tell your caregiver right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.
    • If you take warfarin, some foods can change how your blood clots. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, grapes, and other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you take warfarin.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Stool softeners: This medicine makes it easier for you to have a bowel movement. You may need this medicine to treat or prevent constipation.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • You may need to have blood tests after your surgery. You may also need imaging tests, such as an x-ray of your chest. You may need a colonoscopy to check your colon or intestines. A colonoscope is a soft, bendable tube with a light and tiny camera on the end. It takes pictures of the inside of your colon, which may be shown on a TV-like screen. Other tests may help your caregiver see if you have cancer in other body organs. Ask your caregiver when to come back for these tests and treatments.
    • CT scan:
      • This is also called a CAT scan. A special x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your colon, abdomen, or chest. It may be used to look at bones, muscles, body tissue, and blood vessels.
      • You may be given dye before the pictures are taken. The dye is usually given in your IV, a tube in your vein. The dye may help your caregiver see the pictures better. People who are allergic to shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish, or have other allergies or medical conditions.
    • Ultrasound:
      • An abdominal ultrasound is a simple test that looks inside of your abdomen. Sound waves are used to show pictures of your abdomen on a TV-like screen.
  • If you have cancer, you may need more treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.
    • Chemotherapy:
      • This medicine, often called chemo, is used to treat cancer. It works by killing tumor cells. Chemotherapy may also be used to shrink lymph nodes that have cancer in them. Once the tumor is smaller, you may need surgery to cut out the rest of the cancer.
      • Many different chemotherapy medicines are used to treat cancer. You may need blood tests often. These blood tests show how your body is doing and how much chemotherapy is needed. Chemotherapy can have many side effects. Caregivers will watch you closely and will work with you to decrease side effects. Chemotherapy can cure some cancers. Even if the chemotherapy does not cure your cancer, it may help you feel better or live longer.
    • Radiation: Radiation shrinks tumors and kills cancer cells with x-rays or gamma rays. Radiation may be given after surgery to kill cancer cells that were not removed. It may also be given alone or with chemotherapy to treat cancer.


  • You have a fever (high body temperature).
  • You have nausea (upset stomach) or you start to vomit (throw up).
  • The skin around your belly is red, swollen, or has pus coming out near your stitches.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • You have trouble urinating or have a burning feeling when you urinate.
  • You are unable to have a bowel movement or pass gas.
  • You see blood in your stool or on your toilet paper.
  • You have questions about your surgery, condition, or care.


  • You have bleeding that does not stop.
  • You have very bad pain in your stomach.
  • Your stomach is swollen.
  • You cannot eat without vomiting.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing that is getting worse over time.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and have trouble breathing.
  • You have new and sudden chest pain. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Open Colectomy (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes