This page will give you information about abdominal surgery for Crohn's disease. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.
What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of your bowel. The disease most often affects the end part of your small bowel. However, it can affect any part of your bowel.
Crohn’s disease causes your bowel wall to thicken, which can block food from passing through. The affected area of your bowel can also fail to absorb nutrients from your food.
Left untreated, you can get problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, a hole through the wall of your bowel, problems with your back passage and fluid leaking out.
What are the benefits of surgery?
Your symptoms should improve. Your doctor may also be able to reduce or stop your medication.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
What does the operation involve?
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes an hour to 90 minutes.
Your surgeon will make a cut on your abdomen and remove the diseased part of your small bowel. They will often also need to remove a part of your large bowel.
Your surgeon will usually join the ends of your bowel back together. If they are unable to join the ends of your bowel, they will make a colostomy or ileostomy.
What complications can happen?
- infection of the surgical site (wound)
- unsightly scarring
- developing a hernia
- blood clots
- chest infection
- difficulty passing urine
- anastomotic leak
- continued bowel paralysis
- damage to other structures inside your abdomen
- injury to your bowel
- tissues can join together in an abnormal way
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after 5 to 10 days. It may take up to 3 months for you to recover fully. Most people feel much better after the diseased part of their bowel has been removed. Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Crohn’s disease sometimes comes back and affects another part of your bowel.
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of your bowel. Surgery is usually recommended if medication fails to improve your symptoms.
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Last reviewed: September 2018