I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to get access to our carefully selected top 3 researches click here.

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • Understanding the Long-Term Side Effects of Colon Resection Surgery: A Comprehensive Guide

What are the long-term side effects of colon resection surgery? This critical question looms for many post-surgery patients. Direct and informative, this article tackles the major concerns without complexity—covering altered bowel function, risk of bowel obstruction, and urinary and sexual effects—empowering you with knowledge for your ongoing recovery journey.

Key Takeaways

  • Colon resection can result in long-term side effects like low anterior resection syndrome (LARS), revealing changes in bowel habits and necessitating various management strategies, including medication and pelvic floor exercises.

  • The surgery carries a risk for developing bowel obstruction due to adhesions or paralytic ileus and may have ramifications on urinary and sexual health due to potential autonomic nerve damage.

  • Postoperative care, including follow-up visits and colonoscopies, and lifestyle adjustments in diet and exercise are critical for detecting late complications and promoting recovery and wellbeing.

Navigating Life After Colon Resection: Long-Term Side Effects

Illustration of a human digestive system

Colon resection surgery, including rectal cancer surgery, is a significant surgical intervention that can lead to alterations in the body’s functioning. While the immediate postoperative phase may involve recovery and healing from the surgical procedure, the long-term impact can be multifaceted. Many patients undergoing colorectal surgery, particularly those treated for colorectal cancer, rectal cancer, and ulcerative colitis, experience changes in bowel habits, a condition often referred to as low anterior resection syndrome (LARS).

Some common symptoms of LARS include:

  • Increased frequency of bowel movements

  • Urgency to have a bowel movement

  • Incomplete emptying of the bowels

  • Leakage of stool (fecal incontinence)

  • Abdominal cramping or pain

  • Gas and bloating

It is important for patients to discuss any changes in bowel habits with their healthcare provider, as there are treatment options available to help manage these symptoms.

Beyond changes in bowel function, bowel obstruction also presents a risk after surgery. This complication arises from mechanical obstruction due to adhesions or paralytic ileus, a condition where the bowel doesn’t work properly.

Further, colon resection surgery can lead to urinary and sexual complications. The urinary, bladder, sexual, genital, and reproductive organ-based systems may be affected, leading to a range of issues.

Preoperative conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, diverticular disease, fistulas, infections, diabetes, prostatic hypertrophy, endometriosis, and urinary tract infection can also impact urinary and sexual function.

Lastly, for some patients, there’s the possibility of a permanent stoma, which is a passage established in the abdomen to allow waste to be directed into an external collection pouch.

Changes in Bowel Habits

Alterations in bowel habits following colon resection surgery are common. These alterations may include increased frequency, looseness, or constipation. However, these effects tend to improve in the weeks and months following the completion of treatment for bowel cancer.

Although these effects gradually improve, patients experiencing such changes should consider seeking advice from their physician or specialized nurse. Independent risk factors may contribute to these changes, and professional guidance can help manage these alterations more effectively. In some cases, patients may experience low anterior resection syndrome (LAR syndrome), characterized by incontinence, urgency, and increased frequency of bowel movements.

Managing Bowel Function Post-Surgery

Managing bowel function post-surgery can be a complex process, requiring a combination of dietary adjustments, medications, and exercises. Gradually introducing a variety of foods into the diet and monitoring their effects can be beneficial in managing bowel function and indirectly supporting bladder function.

Medications such as stool softeners or laxatives can be beneficial in addressing constipation. However, any treatment strategies for post-surgery bowel issues should be initiated after a thorough discussion with the physician.

Particularly, exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles are instrumental in managing bowel movements and averting leakage.

Psychological Impact of Altered Bowel Function

The physical changes post-surgery are often accompanied by psychological implications. Some of the psychological implications include:

  • Altered bowel function, which can lead to a significant psychological impact on patients

  • Influence on emotional well-being

  • Influence on overall quality of life

Patients may experience anxiety arising from difficulty distinguishing between liquid or gas contents in the rectum and alterations in fecal consistency. The emotional impact can be identified through the examination of patients’ experiences, including living with uncertainty, the struggle to live with altered bowel function, and a constant preoccupation with these changes.

Undoubtedly, managing emotional wellbeing should be a priority, and seeking help can greatly assist patients in dealing with the psychological effects of altered bowel function.

The Risk of Bowel Obstruction Following Surgery

A person experiencing abdominal discomfort

Postoperative complications are a part of the surgical journey, and one of the potential long-term risks following colon resection surgery is bowel obstruction. Bowel obstruction following colon resection surgery can result from mechanical obstruction due to adhesions or paralytic ileus.

The incidence of bowel obstruction after surgery varies, with reported rates between 2.9% and 12.8%. Awareness of the symptoms of bowel obstruction is critical, as it necessitates immediate medical attention. These symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Cramping

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Lack of appetite

  • Malaise

Comprehending the risk of bowel obstruction, identifying the symptoms, and promptly seeking medical care can greatly curtail potential complications linked to bowel obstruction. It’s crucial to communicate any concerns with your healthcare provider, who can offer guidance based on your individual circumstances.

Implications for Urinary and Sexual Health

Illustration of urinary system anatomy

Urinary and sexual health complications are potential concerns following colon resection surgery. These complications primarily arise due to autonomic nerve damage, which may occur during the mobilization and resection of the sigmoid colon and rectum.

The impact on sexual function can vary between males and females. In males, colon resection surgery can potentially disrupt erectile and ejaculatory functions due to injury or disruption to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. Female sexual function may also be affected, leading to reduced sexual activity, potential issues such as dyspareunia, decreased vaginal dimensions, diminished sexual desire, and overall lower sexual activity.

Although nerve-sparing surgeries might lessen the chances of these dysfunctions, they cannot absolutely guarantee total prevention. Complications stemming from urinary dysfunction may encompass:

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Hydronephrosis

  • Urinary reflux

  • Pyelonephritis

  • Impaired renal function

Urinary Complications Post-Colon Resection

Post-colon resection, patients may experience bladder dysfunction, often linked to procedures impacting the autonomic pelvic plexus. Damage to the autonomic nerves during deep pelvic surgeries can lead to compromised bladder contractility, attributed to parasympathetic detrusor denervation.

Risk factors, including diabetes, previous urologic history, and total mesorectal excision, have been singled out as independent risk factors for urinary dysfunction in men having rectal resections. In the immediate postoperative period, patients experiencing difficulty voiding or fully emptying their bladder are managed through the insertion or replacement of a urinary catheter.

Long-term treatment options for patients with compliance abnormalities may involve the use of anticholinergic medications and neuromodulation. In persistent cases, a comprehensive outpatient evaluation, including urodynamics 2 to 3 months postoperatively, is recommended.

Sexual Function After Colon Resection

A couple holding hands to signify emotional support

Sexual function after colon resection may be impacted due to nerve damage during surgery, which can occur directly or indirectly through thermal injuries, stretching, inflammation, and ischemia. In males, prevalent sexual complications encompass erectile dysfunction and other sexual dysfunctions, potentially arising from surgical damage to the hypogastric plexus, affecting erectile function and ejaculation. In females, common sexual complications include vaginal dryness, dyspareunia (painful intercourse), reduced vaginal dimensions, and decreased sexual desire.

The incidence of sexual dysfunction after colon resection surgery fluctuates, with studies citing rates as wide-ranging as 55% to 75%. Open conversations with your healthcare provider regarding any post-surgery sexual function concerns are vital.

Coping with the Possibility of a Permanent Stoma

Illustration of a stoma bag

A permanent stoma, a passage established in the abdomen to allow waste to be directed into an external collection pouch, is a possibility for some patients post-colon resection surgery. This can potentially introduce new challenges and difficulties in the patient’s life. Patients could potentially encounter psychological issues, including:

  • depression

  • anxiety

  • alterations in body image

  • reduced self-confidence

  • sexual challenges

These difficulties may significantly affect their social and professional spheres, possibly resulting in feelings of embarrassment or exclusion.

Handling a permanent stoma demands:

  • An in-depth grasp of its implications

  • Help from healthcare professionals

  • Support groups

  • Support from family and friends

  • Lifestyle modifications to adjust to the stoma

It is a significant lifestyle change that requires adjustment and acceptance, but with the right support and resources, it can be managed effectively.

Remember, a permanent stoma does not limit your abilities or potential. With the right attitude and a supportive environment, you can lead a fulfilling and active life.

Strategies for Reducing the Risk of Postoperative Complications

Mitigating the risk of postoperative complications is a vital part of the surgical journey, starting with the choice of a seasoned surgical team. An experienced team understands the unique challenges that colon cancer patients encounter and can significantly improve the likelihood of successful cancer treatment.

Effective strategies to mitigate postoperative complications in colon surgery can include the implementation of a no drain policy in colorectal surgery and employing ultrasonic dissection to minimize blood loss. Proactive identification and management of risk factors can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Following medical guidance, upholding a healthy lifestyle, and complying with the prescribed follow-up care also play a crucial role in minimizing the risk of postoperative complications. Remember, the recovery journey is unique to each individual. It’s crucial to have open communication with your healthcare provider and follow their advice tailored to your specific needs.

The Importance of Follow-Up Care in Detecting Late Complications

Consistent follow-up care is vital to identify late complications and guarantee the implementation of suitable interventions. Late complications following colon resection surgery can encompass:

  • Urinary retention

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Retrograde ejaculation

  • Dyspareunia

  • Infertility

  • Bleeding

  • Intestinal perforation

  • Vascular injury

  • Intraperitoneal adhesions

  • Subcutaneous emphysema

A typical post-operative care plan following colon resection surgery involves:

  • A colonoscopy at 1 year post-surgery

  • Additional colonoscopies at intervals of 3-5 years

  • Regular follow-up visits with the healthcare team for screenings and monitoring.

Prompt detection of late complications can significantly enhance the effectiveness of the treatment and aid in a smoother recovery process. Regular follow-up care also provides an opportunity to address any concerns or questions you may have regarding your recovery journey.

Lifestyle Adjustments for Enhanced Recovery and Wellbeing

Recovering from colon resection surgery involves not only physical healing but also adjusting to a lifestyle change that fosters overall wellbeing. Dietary recommendations post-surgery include a balanced diet consisting of:

  • Applesauce

  • Bananas

  • Pears

  • Peaches

  • Melons

  • Boiled white rice

  • Cooked beets

  • Cream of rice

  • Cooked vegetables

  • Mashed potatoes

  • Tender proteins like fish and poultry

  • Tofu

  • Smooth peanut butter

Regular exercise during the recovery phase yields numerous advantages. These include:

  • Reduction of inflammation

  • Enhancement of the immune system

  • Improvement of metabolism

  • Promotion of a healthy gut microbiome

  • Overall support for the recovery process

However, it’s crucial to engage in light activities and avoid straining the abdominal tissues during this period.

Emotional support plays a vital role in aiding recovery and promoting wellbeing. It offers:

  • Comfort

  • Alleviation of stress and anxiety

  • Fostering a positive outlook

  • Assisting patients in managing the physical and emotional difficulties associated with the surgery

Adapting to these lifestyle changes may seem daunting at first, but they can significantly enhance your recovery journey and improve your overall wellbeing. Remember, every step you take towards your recovery is a step towards reclaiming your health and wellbeing.


Colon resection surgery can bring a myriad of long-term side effects, including changes in bowel habits, the risk of bowel obstruction, implications for urinary and sexual health, and the possibility of a permanent stoma. It’s crucial to understand these potential effects and be prepared to manage them with the right resources and support.

The journey post-colon resection surgery is one of resilience and adaptability. Through lifestyle adjustments, regular follow-up care, and emotional support, patients can navigate this journey with strength and confidence. Remember, the journey to recovery is not a sprint but a marathon, and every step you take brings you closer to enhanced health and wellbeing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do bowel movements change after colon resection?

After a colon resection, bowel movements may initially become looser and more frequent, but this typically stabilizes after a few weeks and can be managed with medication.

Can you lead a normal life after colon resection?

Yes, most patients are able to live a full and comfortable life after a successful colon resection procedure. Ongoing treatment may be necessary in the case of underlying diseases.

What are the digestive problems after colon resection?

After a colon resection, digestive problems can include more frequent bowel movements, sudden urgency to defecate or pass gas, and changes in stool consistency. It’s important to monitor these changes and discuss them with your healthcare provider.

What foods should you avoid after colon resection?

After a colon resection, it’s best to avoid foods known to cause stomach gas and distention, such as corn, beans, peas, lentils, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Instead, use a blender to puree foods to a tolerable consistency and consider steaming or microwaving vegetables for nutrient preservation.

What are the potential long-term consequences of undergoing colon resection surgery?

The potential long-term consequences of colon resection surgery include changes in bowel habits, the risk of bowel obstruction, urinary and sexual complications, and the possibility of a permanent stoma. Be sure to discuss these potential outcomes with your healthcare provider.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}