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Open Bowel Resection: Before Your Surgery

Regions of the colon

What is an open bowel resection?

This surgery removes a piece of the intestine (bowel). The doctor makes one large cut in your belly to take out part of the intestine. This cut is called an incision. The doctor then connects the healthy parts of the intestine. This surgery is done to treat a bowel blockage. It can also treat diseases such as Crohn's disease, cancer, diverticulitis, or ulcers.

Most people go home after 3 to 7 days in the hospital. You may need about 6 weeks to fully recover.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Preparing for surgery

  • Bring a list of questions to ask your doctors. It is important that you understand exactly what surgery is planned, the risks, benefits, and other options before your surgery.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take, including any vitamins and supplements. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • Before your surgery, you will speak with an anesthesia provider to discuss your anesthetic options, including the risks, benefits, and alternatives to each. This may be on the phone or in person.
  • Your doctor may have you take antibiotics before surgery.
  • A day or two before surgery, your doctor may have you stop eating and have you drink only clear liquids.
  • You may take laxatives to clean out your bowels. You also may take an enema. Your doctor will tell you how to do this. Or you may need to go to the hospital the day before surgery to prepare your intestine.
  • If your doctor asks you to take an antibiotic or laxative before surgery, it is important to follow these instructions exactly.

Taking care of yourself before surgery

  • Build healthy habits into your life. Changes are best made several weeks before surgery, since your body may react to sudden changes in your habits. Talk to your doctor about any changes you need to make.
    • Stay as active as you can.
    • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Cut back or quit alcohol and tobacco. If you drink a lot of alcohol, talk to your healthcare provider about helping you cut down the amount you drink.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you do not have one, you may want to prepare one so your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors recommend that everyone prepare these papers before surgery, regardless of the type of surgery or condition.

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
  • Leave your valuables at home.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • Before surgery you will be asked to repeat your full name, what surgery you are having, and what part of your body is being operated on. The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • A small tube (IV) will be placed in a vein, to give you fluids and medicine to help you relax. Because of the combination of medicines given to keep you comfortable, you may not remember much about the operating room.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The surgery will take 2 to 3 hours.
  • As you wake up in the recovery room, the nurse will check to be sure you are stable and comfortable. It is important for you to tell your doctor and nurse how you feel and ask questions about any concerns you may have.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home.
  • For your safety, you should not drive until you are no longer taking pain medicines and you can move and react easily.
  • Arrange for extra help at home after surgery, especially if you live alone or provide care for another person.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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