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Digestive Surgeries

Doctors in surgery

What Are the Most Common Types of Digestive Surgery?

The digestive system is extremely complex and can be easily disrupted by poor dietary choices, diseases, stress, and other factors. While some digestive disorders can be easily managed with diet and medications, others require surgery. Crohn's disease, colon cancer, pancreatic cysts, and large bowel obstruction may cause death if left untreated. Sometimes, surgery is the only option.

Thanks to the latest advancements in health care, most digestive surgeries are safe and cause minimal discomfort. Depending on your condition, you may need upper gastrointestinal (GI) surgery or lower GI surgery. Nowadays, physicians use cutting-edge technology to reduce recovery time and prevent complications, so you may be able to return home within days.

Here is a quick overview of the most common digestive surgeries and their role:


This surgical procedure involves the removal of the appendix. It is recommended to those with appendicitis, a condition in which the appendix becomes infected or inflamed. Most patients experience severe pain, fever, vomiting, nausea, constipation, and tenderness in the lower abdominal region. If left untreated, this disorder may cause a severe infection known as peritonitis.

Patients can opt for an open appendectomy or laparoscopic appendectomy. The second option has a lower infection rate and requires less hospital stay following the procedure. Possible complications include wound infection, abscess formation, bleeding from incision site, and bowel obstruction.


Cholecystectomy is a common surgery for painful gallbladder attacks and gallstones. Compared to other procedures, it is relatively safe and carries only a small risk of complications. Most surgeons will remove the gallbladder through laparoscopic cholecystectomy by making four small incisions. Open cholecystectomy is more invasive and involves a larger surgical incision. In rare cases, patients may develop complications, such as damage to the bile ducts, bile leak, hernia, wound infection, or bile duct injury.


A colectomy or colon resection involves the partial or complete removal of the colon. This type of digestive surgery is recommended in case of Crohn's disease, bowel obstruction, diverticulitis, or stomach cancer. The main types of colectomies include proctocolectomy, sigmoid colectomy, right hemicolectomy, and left hemicolectomy.

This procedure can help prevent and treat diseases affecting the colon, and improve your quality of life. The downside is that it carries a high risk of complications, such as organ injury blood clots in the legs, bleeding, anastomotic leaks, and incisional hernia. However, over 40 percent of colectomies are now performed via laparoscopic surgery, which lowers the risk of infection.


During a bowel diversion or ostomy, the surgeon creates an opening in the abdominal wall to reroute the normal movement of intestinal waste out of your body. Depending on your disorder and its severity, you may need a urostomy, a colostomy, or an ileostomy. This type of surgery is recommended to those suffering from certain diseases of the urinary or digestive systems, such as bowel obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and injuries to the small or large intestine. Some patients may develop infections, intestinal blockage, stoma problems, rectal discharge, skin irritation, and nutrient deficiencies following the procedure.


Splenectomy involves the removal of the spleen because if leukemia, sickle cell anemia, liver cirrhosis, hypersplenism, and other conditions. About 30 percent of people have a second spleen that will function normally once the main spleen is removed. Your doctor may recommend laparoscopic or open surgery. With laparoscopic spleen removal, patients recover faster and experience less pain. Possible risks include blood clots, bleeding, allergic reactions to anesthesia, pus collection under the diaphragm, hernia, and collapsed lung.

Whipple Procedure

The Whipple procedure or pancreaticoduodenectomy is a major surgery that involves the removal of the duodenum, the gallbladder, the "head" of the pancreas, and part of the stomach. This procedure is used on patients with tumors in the pancreas. After removing the damaged tissues, the surgeon reconnects the remaining internal organs. Common complications include abdominal infection, delayed gastric emptying, blood clots, and digestive problems. Less than 20 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer are eligible for this procedure because of the risks involved.

Liver Biopsy

Surgeons perform liver biopsies to collect tissue samples and estimate the degree of liver damage. This procedure helps identify the cause of liver abnormalities, jaundice, enlarged liver, and abnormal liver blood tests. Patients may require a transvenous biopsy, percutaneous biopsy, or laparoscopic biopsy. Most times, there are no complications associated with liver biopsy.

Depending on what organs are affected, the surgeon may recommend laparoscopic partial gastrectomy, laparoscopic esophagostomy, transhiatal esophagostomy, liver transplant, or reconstruction of bile duct structures. These procedures can save your life and relieve the symptoms associated with digestive disorders. Your surgeon is the only one who can recommend the best option for your condition.