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Abdominal Surgery for Crohn's disease

3-minute read

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.

Illustration showing abdominal surgery for Crohn's disease.
Abdominal surgery for Crohn's disease.

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?

Crohn’s disease can be treated using medication, such as mesalazine, steroids, azathioprine and infliximab. These have side effects and your doctor will discuss them with you.

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?

General complications

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • unsightly scarring
  • developing a hernia
  • blood clots
  • chest infection
  • difficulty passing urine

Specific complications

  • anastomotic leak
  • continued bowel paralysis
  • damage to other structures inside your abdomen
  • injury to your bowel
  • tissues can join together in an abnormal way
  • death

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.

Summary

Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of your bowel. Surgery is usually recommended if medication fails to improve your symptoms.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Last reviewed: September 2018

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