Small Bowel Resection

A small bowel resection is the removal of part of or all of the small intestine as treatment for certain conditions.

The small intestine (or small bowel) is about six meters long and lies between the stomach and colon. It is coiled up in the abdomen and divided into three sections: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. The main function of the small intestine is to digest and absorb nutrients. It also delivers waste products to the large intestine.

  • Blockage in the intestines, caused by scar tissue or deformities.
  • Bleeding, infection, or serious ulcers caused by inflammation of the small intestines. (Conditions that can cause inflammation of the small bowel include Crohn’s disease, regional ileitis, and regional enteritis.)
  • Noncancerous (benign) tumors.
  • Precancerous polyps (nodes).
  • Cancer.
  • Injury.
  • Meckel’s diverticulum (a pouch of intestine present at birth).
  • Severe loss of blood flow to the intestines.

1.    Please let your doctor know about your health history, including any past surgeries, and any allergies you may have to medication and/or chemicals. Always let your medical team know about any special needs you have to ensure utmost safety before, during, and after your surgery.

2.    The doctor will assess your readiness for surgery by carrying out a thorough health evaluation, including blood tests, chest x-ray, and electrocardiogram (EKG).

3.    Let your doctor know about all medication that you are taking, especially any blood-thinning medication, as some will need to be stopped for 7-14 days before the procedure. Please follow your doctor’s instructions closely to avoid dangerous complications.

4.    You will likely have to avoid all food and water for six to eight hours before the procedure or as recommended by the doctor. In case of emergency surgery, it will be performed right away.

A small bowel resection may be done laparoscopically or through traditional “open” surgery.

·        A laparoscopic surgery, three to five small incisions are made in the abdomen. Gas is usually pumped into the abdomen to inflate it, making it easier for the doctor to see inside. A camera and small tools are inserted through the incisions to find the diseased area and remove it.

·        An open surgery, a large (six-inch) incision is made in the abdomen. The doctor then locates the part of the small bowel that is damaged and removes it. The incision is closed with staples or stitches.

In either type of surgery, there are open ends of the intestine that must be managed. If there is enough healthy small bowel left, the two cuts may be sewn or stapled together, called anastomosis. If the intestine cannot be reconnected, the doctor will make an opening in your abdomen called a stoma and the end of the intestine closed to your stomach will be attached to the wall of your abdomen, where it will drain through the stoma into a sealed pouch or drainage bag. This procedure is called an ileostomy.


1.    Immediately after surgery, you will have to continue fasting and will receive intravenous fluids instead. The doctor may order a liquid diet four to five days after the procedure and then slowly adjust this, progressing to thicker liquids and then normal food. If a large portion of the small intestine was removed, this process may take even longer. Your doctor will explain the recovery process to you.

2.    You will be prescribed pain medication.

3.    After the procedure you will have a thin tube in your nose that will travel down your throat and into your stomach to drain stomach contents. Food may also be delivered to your stomach through this tube until you are ready to eat by mouth.

4.    You will likely stay in the hospital for approximately five to seven days after the procedure, depending on the extent of the surgery and how much of the small intestine was removed. The more that is removed, the longer the recovery period in the hospital.

5.    You will be able to resume normal activities slowly, over a period of weeks and months. Don’t rush to return to all daily activities, but instead gradually ease back into your normal routine. Start by sitting up, standing, walking slowly, and so on. Your doctor will explain activity restrictions to you and you can always ask your doctor and medical team any questions you have.

  • Incisional hernia
  • Damage to nearby organs.
  • Frequent diarrhea.
  • Problems with the ileostomy.
  • Scar tissue that can block the intestines.
  • Short bowel syndrome (when a large amount of small intestine needs to be removed), which may lead to problems absorbing nutrients and vitamins.
  • Anastomotic leak.
  • Wound dehiscence.
  • Bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Reaction to anesthesia.

·        If you are taking any blood-thinning medication/anticoagulant, please let your doctor know as some may need to be stopped before you travel for the procedure.

·        Travelers to Thailand should plan to stay in the country for at least two to three weeks or for the entire duration of treatment.

·        If you plan to return home after the procedure, please speak to your doctor before making travel arrangements.

·        During your follow-up appointment your medical team will assess your health and your incision and you will receive documents detailing your medical and treatment history and your "Fit to Fly" certificate (if needed).

Please discuss with your doctor.

What if this procedure is not performed?

If this procedure is not performed and the doctor has determined that there are no other treatment options, your condition/the damage in the small bowel will worsen and may spread, especially if you have been diagnosed with cancer. When the small bowel is compromised, your body cannot absorb nutrients, which will negatively impact the body in the long run.

In the case of a small bowel obstruction or lack of blood flow to the intestines, which require surgery, without it the intestines will die and the contents within the intestines will leak into the abdominal cavity, leading to infection and, possibly, death.


Medication and other conservative treatment may be options, but may not be as effective as surgery. In this case, the doctor will strongly recommend this procedure.

Related conditions

Doctors Related

Related Centers

Surgery Clinic and Surgery Center

Learn more

Digestive Disease (GI) Center

Learn more

Related Packages

Rating score NaN of 10, based on 0 vote(s)

Related Health Blogs