If you’ve had two or three episodes of diverticulitis, your doctor may recommend an elective procedure called sigmoidectomy, in which the affected part of the colon—called the sigmoid colon—is removed to help prevent a recurrence.
Before choosing elective surgery, you and your doctor discuss the benefits and risks. If you choose to have the procedure, your doctor performs minimally invasive colorectal surgery, which is done using traditional laparoscopy or robotic-assisted surgery. The procedure requires general anesthesia.
During a laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon makes several very small incisions in the abdomen, through which the laparoscopic instruments are inserted. He or she performs the surgery with the help of a two-dimensional image on a video monitor.
During robotic-assisted surgery, surgeons use an advanced surgical system to perform the procedure. It consists of tiny surgical instruments mounted on separate robotic arms. An additional arm contains a video camera, which projects a magnified, high-definition, three-dimensional image on a computer monitor to guide the surgeon. The surgical tools and camera are inserted through tiny incisions in the abdomen. The surgeon controls these instruments and the camera from a console.
In both approaches, the abdomen is inflated with gas, which expands the abdominal cavity, giving the surgeon a better view and more freedom of movement. Your doctor identifies the sigmoid colon and removes it. The two ends of the diseased portion of the colon are attached using a laser, a procedure known as anastomosis. Surgery can take three or more hours.
What to Expect After Surgery
A typical hospital stay after an elective sigmoidectomy is two to four days. After the procedure, you are given liquids and your doctor waits for you to have a bowel movement.
After a period of observation, you are allowed to start eating solid foods and go home. Once home, your doctor recommends avoiding driving or lifting anything heavy. You should also avoid movements or exercises that could strain the abdomen.
Complications of elective sigmoidectomy are rare. You may experience leakage from the ends of the colon that were surgically attached. Treatment for a leak may be as simple as taking antibiotics. With more severe episodes, another operation may be necessary. Bleeding, infection, and blood clots are other potential complications of the procedure.