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Laparoscopic Surgery for Digestive Problems

Though many digestive problems can be treated successfully with lifestyle changes or medications, some conditions may require laparoscopic surgery.

Laparoscopic surgery and hand-assisted laparoscopic surgery (HALS) are "minimally invasive" procedures commonly used to treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike traditional surgery on the colon or other parts of the intestines where a long incision down the center of the abdomen is required, laparoscopic surgery requires only small "keyhole" incisions in the abdomen. In the case of hand-assisted surgery, a 3-4 inch incision is also used to allow the surgeon's hand access to the abdominal organs. As a result, the person undergoing the procedure may experience less pain and scarring after surgery, and a more rapid recovery.

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Laparoscopic surgery is used to treat conditions including:

How Is Laparoscopic Surgery Performed?

For laparoscopic surgery, three or more small (5-10 mm) incisions are made in the abdomen to allow access ports to be inserted. The laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted through these ports. The surgeon then uses the laparoscope, which transmits a picture of the abdominal organs on a video monitor, allowing the operation to be performed.

Laparoscopic intestinal surgery can be used to perform the following operations:

  • Proctosigmoidectomy. Surgical removal of a diseased section of the rectum and sigmoid colon used to treat cancers and noncancerous growths or polyps, and complications of diverticulitis.
  • Right colectomy or ileocolectomy. During a right colectomy, the right side of the colon is removed. During an ileocolectomy, the last segment of the small intestine, which is attached to the right side of the colon, called the ileum, is also removed. This surgery is used to remove cancers, noncancerous growths or polyps, and inflammation from Crohn's disease.
  • Total abdominal colectomy. Surgical removal of the large intestine, which is used to treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, familial polyposis and possibly constipation.
  • Fecal diversion. Surgical creation of either a temporary or permanent ileostomy (opening between the surface of the skin and the small intestine) or colostomy (opening between the surface of the skin and the colon). The surgery treats complex rectal and anal problems, including poor bowel control.
  • Abdominoperineal resection. Surgical removal of the anus, rectum, and sigmoid colon that is used to remove cancer in the lower rectum or in the anus, close to the sphincter muscles.
  • Rectopexy. A procedure in which stitches are used to secure the rectum in its proper position in cases of rectal prolapse.
  • Total proctocolectomy. This is the most extensive bowel operation performed and involves the removal of both the rectum and the colon. If the surgeon is able to leave the anus and it works properly, then sometimes an ileal pouch can be created so that you can go to the bathroom. An ileal pouch is a surgically created chamber made up of the lowest part of the small intestine (the ileum). However, sometimes, a permanent ileostomy (opening between the surface of the skin and the small intestine) is needed, particularly if the anus must be removed, is weak, or has been damaged.

Read more about these procedures in WebMD's Colorectal Cancer Guide.

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