There are several different types of colectomy, depending on how much of the colon and rectum is damaged.
I underwent a laparoscopic subtotal colectomy.
Laparoscopic means the procedure was done by making 4 small incisions instead of one large opening, it’s more commonly known as keyhole surgery. Colectomy means removal of the entire colon, and the subtotal part means only part was removed. This confused me at first, however I’ve slowly started to understand things more. UC can affect any part of your colon and rectum, in my case my rectum was not damaged but the entire length of my colon was. So the colectomy part means I had my colon removed, but the subtotal part means my rectum was left in tact.
I found the easiest way to understand it myself was to see a picture of what was going to happen, as I’ve always understood things more when I can see what’s in front of me. On the left is what I had removed, (the pink part) which is the whole of my colon. This means my digestive system now ends at the ileum (final part of the small intestine, marked on diagram as “end ileostomy”). The next step after the removal of my colon was an ileostomy.
The removal of anyone’s colon (or part of it) carries its own risks, as do all surgeries, especially for those with an IBD flare up as the walls are damaged as a result of the ulcers. The widest part of you colon (when healthy) is approximately 3 inches, where as in a damaged colon it can be up to 4 inches as there can be a build up of gases, which causes the bloating which is a common symptom.
As the colon is the part of the digestive system that is responsible for absorbing water and important electrolytes, when you’ve had yours removed it is important to stay as hydrated as possible as you are no longer just losing fluids through urine, but also through your waste products as you have no colon to absorb the water. As a result it is quite common to become deficient in important electrolytes so supplements may be needed or a specialist diet. I am now taking vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements, and have blood tests to keep an eye on my potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron levels (along with vitamin B12 and folic acid) and am prescribed supplements as and when I need them, or advised to eat more bananas to boost my potassium!