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102,900 new cases of colon cancer (49,470 in men and 53,430 in women) were diagnosed in 2010 while 39,670 new cases of rectal cancer (22,620 in men and 17,050 in women) were diagnosed.
*Source: American Cancer Society
 

Understanding Colon and Rectal Surgery

Colon and rectal surgery, also called colorectal surgery, is performed to repair damage to the colon, rectum or anus caused by diseases or issues affecting the lower digestive tract. These diseases and conditions may include cancer, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) or diverticulitis, a swelling or perforation in the intestinal or rectal wall. Injury, obstructions or a compromised blood supply might also necessitate surgery.


In some cases, surgical removal of the damaged area or areas around the infected or injured tissue is necessary to restore normal bowel function.


Colon and rectal surgeons in the WellStar Surgery Network specialize in the medical and surgical treatment of all diseases on the intestines, colon, rectum and anus. Each physician has completed advanced surgical training and is certified by both the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. These surgeons also perform hundreds of operations each year using minimally invasive procedures such as laparoscopic surgery, resulting in lower postoperative pain and scarring, shorter hospital stays and quicker recoveries.


Colon and rectal surgeons at WellStar work closely with colleagues in gastroenterology, oncology, radiation oncology, interventional radiology, and nutritionists to provide comprehensive care to patients with digestive tract disorders.


Procedures

Until 1990, most surgeries to treat colorectal diseases required a large incision across the abdomen, opening up the intestinal cavity to perform the necessary repair. Advances in medicine, surgical techniques, and technology have set a new standard of care.


While surgeons at WellStar utilize “open” surgery techniques for some major procedures, almost all colorectal surgeries at WellStar are performed using “minimally invasive” or laparoscopic approaches. Minimally invasive surgery involves using precise instruments and a tiny video camera through small incisions in the abdomen. Patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery recover faster, with less pain after surgery. Laparoscopic techniques are commonly used in operations to treat diverticular disease, ulcerative colitis, Chrohn’s disease, severe constipation, and rectal cancer.


Several WellStar surgeons use the da Vinci® Surgical System to assist in complex colorectal surgeries. The da Vinci® Surgical System improves the surgeon’s vision and control.


Today, surgeons at WellStar Cobb and Kennestone Hospitals use the da Vinci® Surgical System to assist with a variety of surgeries.


Colectomy

Colectomy is an operation to remove part or all of the large intestine (colon). Colectomies are routinely performed to treat diseases that cause painful and/or potentially dangerous symptoms. Laparoscopic colectomy involves using trocars (thin tubes) placed through small incisions. The surgeon then inflates the abdomen with carbon dioxide gas. A thin telescope is inserted through one of the trocars to allow the surgeon to see the abdomen on a high-definition TV monitor. Using specialized instruments, the surgeon removes (or resects) the colon. When the resection is complete, the surgeon has the option of immediately restoring the bowel, by stitching or stapling together both the cut ends (primary anastomosis), or creating a colostomy.


Colostomy

For a colostomy, a portion of the large intestine is brought through the abdominal wall to create an opening to carry feces out to a small pouch. For an ileostomy, the entire colon, rectum and anus is removed or bypassed and the lower end of the small intestine is used for the new opening.


While some colostomies are permanent, many are temporary procedures to relieve pressure on the large intestine as it heals. Due to advances in colorectal surgical techniques, colostomies overall are used in fewer and fewer procedures.