Colorectal Surgery: Purpose of Colorectal Surgery

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Colorectal surgery involves organs in the lower digestive tract, like the colon and rectum. There are a number of reasons you could need surgery in this area. One of the primary reasons for colorectal surgery is cancer. You may also have a blockage or a rupture that requires repair. Learn about the top diagnoses that lead to colorectal surgery.

Surgery team performing colorectal surgery
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Diagnosis Related to Colorectal Surgery

There are many things that can go wrong in the lower digestive tract. Sometimes, these can be fixed with medications or lifestyle changes. When that doesn’t work, colorectal surgery may be the best option. Your doctor will help you decide if you have alternative choices for treatment, or if surgery is the best option.

Some of the diagnoses that may lead to colorectal surgery in include:


Criteria for colorectal surgery would depend primarily on the reason you were having that surgery. A surgeon may want to know that there was attempt made to medically manage your condition before resorting to surgery, and that you are healthy enough to tolerate the surgery and recovery it requires.

In severe cases, a surgeon may determine that the risks of extensive colorectal surgery may not be worth the benefit, as in cases with some advanced, metastatic cancers.

Other times, it clear there are no options besides surgery, particularly when there is a stricture or obstruction that is cutting off the blood supply to a section of the digestive tract—causing what is known as ischemia.

Tests and Labs

There are a number of tests your doctor may perform to help you decide if colorectal surgery is the best option to treat your condition. Some of these tests and their indications are listed below.

  • Blood work: Your doctor will have you complete a set of blood work to check your overall health and nutrition levels before surgery.
  • Imaging studies: Your doctor will likely order one or more imaging studies to get an indirect look at what is going on inside your bowels. This might take the form of an ultrasound, an X-ray, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Cardiac and pulmonary testing: Your surgeon will want to make sure there are no cardiac or pulmonary issues that would complicate your recovery from colorectal surgery.
  • Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy allows your doctor to see the colon and rectum with a camera that attaches to a thin, flexible tube. Samples may be taken for biopsy, or small treatments given during a colonoscopy.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound: This test uses a endoscope, or a long flexible tube with a camera at the end, that is inserted in the mouth for detailed views of the digest tract. It can be used to help diagnose colon cancer.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy. This test uses a camera attached to a long, flexible tube. It allows a doctor to examine the sigmoid colon—the portion of the colon that is closest to the rectum.
  • Capsule endoscopy:  In this procedure, you swallow a small pill that contains a tiny camera. The camera takes pictures of the gastrointestinal tract before it is passed through the stool and removed from the body.
  • Nutrition: Your doctor will review your overall health status, particularly your nutrition status.
  • Social support: Colorectal surgery is a major procedure with an extensive recovery process. Your surgeon should ask about your needs and home, what help you have, and what your social support system is before surgery. Arrangements should be made well in advance of your surgery date, if possible, to provide supplementary assistance where you need it.

A Word From Verywell

There are a number of conditions that could cause someone to need colorectal surgery. Discuss with your doctor what treatment options are best for your particular condition.

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  2. Rodriguez-Bigas MA. Overview of colon resection. UpToDate. Updated 2020.

  3. Scripps Health. Colorectal disease.