What is a laparoscopic colectomy?
Laparoscopic colectomy is a type of minimally invasive surgery. Laparoscopic colectomy, also called minimally invasive colectomy, involves several small incisions in your abdomen. Instead of a big incision, the surgeon makes a few small cuts (0.5-1 centimeters) in the abdominal cavity to insert a surgical camera and instruments and perform the operation. A slightly bigger incision, about 3.5 centimeters wide, is made to remove the tumor.
When compared to traditional open surgery, laparoscopic colectomy can result in much less pain and swifter recovery. Depending on the procedure, most laparoscopic colectomy patients leave the hospital and return to normal activities more quickly than patients recovering from open surgery. It’s important to know about your choices and to talk to your doctor about which option is best for your treatment and for your recovery.
Who is eligible?
Many colon and rectal cancer patients are eligible for laparoscopic surgery. The decision around which type of surgical procedure to use should be discussed with your doctor and healthcare team. Many patients also find it helpful to get a second opinion and discuss options with surgeons who have had experience with different types of techniques. The best type of surgery for you is dependent on many things, including your health, your surgeon’s experience, and your cancer type.
What can I expect?
Carbon dioxide gas is used to inflate the abdomen and create space for the surgeon to operate. The gas is naturally absorbed or removed by the body. The laparoscope sends images from inside the body to video monitors in the operating room.
The surgical instruments function as an extension of the surgeon's hands. During the operation, the surgeon moves the instruments by watching the monitors. The surgeon will remove the segment of the colon or rectum that contains the tumor through the larger incision, along with the attached lymph nodes.
The surgeon will then check the rest of the intestines and liver to see if the cancer has spread.
What are the benefits & risks?
Some research suggests that there are multiple potential benefits to laparoscopic surgery, including fewer complications and a shorter hospital stay. This type of minimally invasive surgery has several advantages compared with traditional surgery, due to the smaller incisions. Benefits may include:
- Fewer days in the hospital after surgery (2.5 fewer days on average)
- Faster return to daily activities (1 month sooner on average)
- Small external scar (10 times smaller scar on average)
- Less pain and lower risk of opioid addiction
- Lower risk of infection
- Less internal scarring
For example, with open colorectal surgery you might spend a week or more in the hospital for intestinal surgery, and your total recovery might take 4 to 8 weeks. If you have laparoscopic surgery, you might stay only 2 nights in the hospital and recover in 2 or 3 weeks. Shorter hospital stays are often less expensive as well.
Talk to your surgical team about what options work best for you.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
Here are some questions you should ask your doctor
- What options are available for my surgery needs?
- Which is best for my situation?
- What are the differences between types of surgery (open, laparoscopic, and robotic-assisted)?
- Should I get a second opinion?
- What should I expect after surgery?
- How should I prepare for surgery?
- What is your experience with this and other types of surgery?
- What are typical outcomes for your patients?
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