Laparoscopic Small Bowel Resection



UW Health surgeons at UW Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin, perform a laparoscopic small bowel resection, a minimally invasive surgery to remove part or all of a patient's small intestine. 


The Procedure


The small intestine, also known as the small bowel, is the location where most of digestion occurs. The small intestine might require surgical removal if it becomes blocked by scar tissue, severely injured, or diseased. Some of these diseases include: cancer, carcinoid tumors, benign tumors, Meckel's diverticulum and precancerous polyps. In addition, surgery might be required if the small intestine becomes inflamed from Crohn's disease, regional ileitis or regional enteritis.


The patient is under general anesthesia and the procedure generally lasts one to four hours. The surgery is performed using a laparoscope, a small lighted camera that can see inside the body, and with other small instruments inserted through a few small incisions in the abdomen. If a large enough portion of the small intestine is healthy, the surgeon will simply cut away the diseased portion and staple the healthy part closed. However, if the small intestine cannot be salvaged and it has to be removed entirely, the surgeon will create a stoma - or opening - through the belly and attach a drainage bag to the opening. The surgeon will redirect the end of the ileum to this stoma and the drainage bag will capture waste as it moves out of the body. This method is called an ileostomy. At the end of the procedure, the surgeon will suture or stitch the small incisions closed.


The Difference of Minimally Invasive


There are numerous benefits to having this procedure performed laparoscopically rather than with the traditional open method:

  • Faster recovery, patient may return home the same day or the day after the surgery, return to light activities after eight to 10 days and return to all activities after 15 days. By comparison, open procedures require two or four days longer in the hospital and four to six weeks of recovery time before returning to normal activities.
  • Less pain post-operatively
  • Fewer post-operative complications
  • Cosmetic appeal, rather than one, long 6-inch incision across the abdomen, three to five small, barely visible incisions are placed in the lower abdomen.