Colon surgery

Less invasive may be best way


A minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure to treat diverticulitis — a painful condition caused by the inflammation of pouches in the colon — and colon cancer has been around for more than 20 years.

But many surgeons continue to perform an open colectomy, causing a larger incision to the abdomen, a longer recovery period and increasing the risk of complications.

“When you’re looking at a minimally invasive procedure compared to an open procedure, you’re shaving off maybe an average of two days in the hospital,” said Dr. Charan Donkor, a general and bariatric surgeon at Baptist Health Medical Group and Mariners Hospital.

Surgery is recommended for patients who have had multiple attacks of diverticulitis. The procedure removes the diseased portion of the colon, usually the sigmoid colon, which is found near the end of the large intestine just before the rectum. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, 10 to 25 percent of people diagnosed with diverticulosis end up getting diverticulitis. With an open colectomy, a long vertical incision is made to the abdomen to access the colon; surgery normally takes two to three hours. The average hospital stay is five to seven days — sometimes longer — and postoperative pain is severe. Common complications include infections and abscess.

The minimally invasive procedure has a much shorter recovery period, usually three to five days. There is less risk for wound infection as instead of one large incision, several smaller incisions are made.

Although Donkor says it has been proven that a minimally invasive approach to surgery is an “overall improvement for the patient,” a recent study showed that only 30 to 40 percent of individuals undergoing elective colon surgery are having the minimally invasive approach.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, minimally invasive approaches to colon surgery have documented benefits including patients’ earlier return to their daily routines and earlier return of gastrointestinal function.

Donkor says that not every patient experiencing diverticulitis or colon cancer is a candidate for minimally invasive surgery, but the option should be explored.

“If patients are candidates, or feel that they may be candidates, it definitely would be better for them to opt for the minimally invasive surgery,” he said. “It is just as safe, if not safer, and patients tend to do better.”

Read more Health stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category