Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Hemicolectomy

3-minute read

What is a hemicolectomy?

A hemicolectomy is an operation where one side of the colon (large intestine) is removed. Some people who have this surgery may need a stoma — an opening on the surface of the abdomen connected to the bowel.

Why is hemicolectomy performed?

The usual reasons for hemicolectomy are bowel cancer, polyps, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease or an abdominal injury.

How to prepare for hemicolectomy

If you are going to have hemicolectomy you might need to take 'bowel prep' medicine. This is a type of laxative that empties your bowel for the procedure. You may need to be on a 'clear fluids' only diet prior to the procedure. If you’re asked to do this, plan for a quiet time the day or 2 before surgery.

You will be asked to fast (not have anything to eat or drink) before surgery.

You may need to stop certain medicines temporarily. Check with your doctor.

What happens during hemicolectomy?

After the general anaesthetic is given, the surgeon removes the unhealthy section of the bowel. This is usually done through a single cut in the abdomen, but sometimes this operation may be done laparascopically (‘keyhole’ surgery), through a few smaller cuts. After removing the unhealthy bowel, the surgeon joins the ends of the remaining bowel together.

Sometimes the ends of the bowel cannot be joined, so one end is connected to the skin of the abdomen. This creates an opening known as a stoma. A bag, known as a colostomy bag, is attached around the stoma to store bowel contents as they pass out of the body. You empty the bag regularly. For many people, the stoma is reversed once the bowel heals enough to be rejoined in a later operation.

What to expect after hemicolectomy

A hemicolectomy is major surgery. It will take some time to get over it. When you wake, you'll have a drip in your arm and you’ll feel drowsy. You'll be given medicine to relieve pain, and perhaps antibiotics to prevent infection.

You'll probably feel tired and weak after a hemicolectomy. It can take a few weeks to feel better. Your doctor can advise you how much time you may need off work.

Some people experience constipation or diarrhoea after surgery. Let your doctor know if you are having problems.

You may need to stay in hospital for about 10 days. If you had keyhole surgery, your stay might be shorter.

What can go wrong?

A hemicolectomy is a significant operation with significant risks. Some people have bleeding or infection after surgery. It is also possible for the surgery to damage other organs in the abdomen, or for the bowel to leak. Some people get blood clots in the legs or lungs. If you have this surgery and notice any problems, call your doctor or go quickly to the hospital emergency department.

More information

About hemicolectomy

Visit the Bowel Cancer Australia website for more information about hemicolectomy.

About surgical procedures

Visit the healthdirect surgical procedures page to learn more about surgical procedures in general with information such as:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Treatment for early bowel cancer | Cancer Council Victoria

The most common treatment is surgery, usually performed by a colorectal surgeon. You may also have chemotherapy, targeted therapies and radiotherapy, which will be coordinated by your oncologist.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

After a diagnosis of bowel cancer | Cancer Council

Learn more about coping with a diagnosis of bowel cancer. Read our patient fact sheets that answer some of the common questions

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Colostomy after bowel cancer treatment: Personal experience | myVMC

After bowel cancer treatment, Amber must live with a colostomy bag to remove excrement from her colon. This is her experience.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Bowel cancer: having a stoma - MyDr.com.au

Having a stoma, even temporarily, is a big change in a person’s life and takes some getting used to. Thousands of Australians have a stoma and most lead a relatively normal life.

Read more on myDr website

Small bowel cancer | Cancer Council

Small bowel cancer is a rare cancer that occurs when cells in the small bowel become abnormal and keep growing and form a mass or lump. Find out more here

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Bowel cancer | Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Bowel cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form a growth in the lining of the large bowel. Read about Garvan's genomic research and innovative studies of cancerous disease.

Read more on Garvan Institute of Medical Research website

Exercise Right for Bowel Cancer

Significant research has shown that exercise is essential during and post any cancer treatment to assist in management of side effects and improving quality of life.

Read more on Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) website

Colorectal cancer biomarkers information | myVMC

Colorectal cancer biomarkers are biological features of body cells that provide information about colorectal cancer risk, stage, treatment and progression.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Colorectal Cancer Treatment - Targeting Cancer

Learn more about colorectal cancer and the different treatments available.

Read more on Radiation Oncology Targeting Cancer website

RAS gene mutation - Lab Tests Online AU

When, why and how the RAS gene mutation test is done

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo