What is open bowel resection surgery?

Open Bowel Resection Surgery
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Open bowel resection surgery: Overview

This surgery removes a piece of the intestine (bowel). The doctor makes one large cut in your belly to take out part of the intestine. This cut is called an incision. The doctor then connects the healthy parts of the intestine. This surgery is done to treat a bowel blockage. It can also treat diseases such as Crohn's disease, cancer, diverticulitis, and ulcers.

Most people go home after 3 to 7 days in the hospital.

How can you care for your child after open bowel resection surgery?


  • Make sure that your child rests when tired. Getting enough sleep will help with recovery. Have your child sleep with his or her head raised on three or four pillows. Your child can also try to sleep with his or her head up in a lounger chair. Don't let your child sleep on the side or stomach.
  • Take your child for a walk each day. Make each walk a little longer than the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount your child walks. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games, or take part in gym class until your doctor says it is okay.
  • Your child may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery, if the doctor okays it. Your child should not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until the doctor tells you it is okay.


  • Your child may not have much appetite after the surgery. But try to have your child eat a healthy diet. The doctor will tell you about any foods your child should not eat.
  • Have your child eat a low-fiber diet for several weeks after surgery. Give your child many small meals throughout the day. Add high-fiber foods a little at a time.
  • Encourage your child to eat yogurt. It puts good bacteria into the colon and helps prevent diarrhea.
  • Make sure that your child avoids nuts, seeds, and corn for a while. They may be hard to digest.
  • Your child may need to take vitamins that contain sodium and potassium. Ask your doctor.
  • Make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to the stomach:
    • Give your child the medicine after meals (unless your child's doctor tells you not to).
    • Ask your child's doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • You may need to give your child some medicines in a different form. You will be told whether to crush pills or give your child a liquid form of the medicine.
  • If the doctor gives your child a stool softener, give it as directed.

Incision care

  • If your child has strips of tape on the incision the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off. Or follow your doctor's instructions for removing the tape.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.

How do you prepare for your child's open bowel resection surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Talk to your child about the surgery. Tell your child that this surgery can help fix the belly problem. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • Ask if a special tour of the surgery area and hospital is available. This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

The day before surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

After open bowel resection: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are short of breath.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are sick to your stomach and cannot drink fluids or keep them down.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

After open bowel resection surgery: Overview

You are likely to have pain that comes and goes for the next few days after bowel surgery. You may have bowel cramps, and your cut (incision) may hurt. You may also feel like you have the flu. You may have a low fever and feel tired and nauseated. This is common. You should feel better after a week and will probably be back to normal in 2 to 3 weeks.

What happens on the day of your open bowel resection surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The surgery will take 2 to 3 hours.

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