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The Role of Colorectal Surgery in Treating Digestive Disorders

Updated: Dec 19, 2023



Digestive health plays a pivotal role in our overall well-being. A smoothly functioning digestive system is essential for absorbing nutrients, eliminating waste, and maintaining the body's equilibrium. However, when digestive disorders strike, they can profoundly impact an individual's quality of life.

This is where colorectal surgery steps in as a vital component of the treatment arsenal, offering hope and solutions for those grappling with gastrointestinal issues.


What Is Colorectal Surgery?

Colorectal Surgery is a specialised branch of surgical medicine that diagnoses and treats disorders affecting the colon (large intestine) and rectum. It involves surgical interventions to address various conditions that can affect these parts of the digestive system.

Colorectal surgery is performed by trained colorectal specialists in Singapore with expertise in managing benign and malignant conditions within the colon and rectum. The aim of colorectal surgery is to relieve symptoms, remove growths, prevent complications, and enhance patients' quality of life.

Common Colorectal Surgical Procedures

  • Colostomy/Ileostomy: Creating an opening in the abdominal wall to divert the colon or small intestine, allowing waste to bypass the affected area.

  • Colectomy: Removal of all or part of the colon.

  • Laparoscopic Surgery: This minimally invasive colorectal surgery involves performing procedures through small incisions in the body using a laparoscope.

  • Polypectomy: Removal of abnormal growths (polyps) from the colon or rectum.

  • Colorectal Cancer Resection: Surgical removal of cancerous tissue, sometimes involving the removal of lymph nodes and surrounding structures.

  • Fistula Repair: Correcting abnormal connections between organs, often seen in conditions like Crohn's disease.

  • Hemorrhoidectomy: Removal of swollen veins in the rectum or anus, known as haemorrhoids.

Types Of Digestive Disorders Treated With Colorectal Surgery

Digestive disorders encompass a wide range of conditions, each with unique challenges. Recognising the signs of digestive disorders is crucial for timely intervention and effective management.


Symptoms can vary from patient to patient. They may include persistent abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, and more.

To identify the underlying cause of digestive symptoms, colorectal clinics in Singapore may recommend various diagnostic tests and procedures such as blood tests, stool analysis, endoscopy, colonoscopy, and imaging studies like CT or MRI scans.


Colorectal surgery can be recommended to treat various types of digestive disorders, including the following:


1. Colorectal Cancer

Surgery is one of the treatment options for colorectal cancer or colon cancer. Depending on the stage and location of the tumour, surgical options may involve removing the tumour, a portion of the colon or rectum, nearby lymph nodes, and potentially adjacent tissues. Surgery can be curative, particularly when cancer is detected at early stages.


2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Chronic digestive tract inflammation characterises conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Colorectal surgery may be necessary to manage complications such as strictures, fistulas, or abscesses. Procedures can involve removing the affected segments of the intestine and reconnecting healthy portions.


3. Diverticulitis

When diverticula (small pouches) in the colon become inflamed or infected, it can lead to diverticulitis. Severe cases may require colorectal surgery, which can include removing the affected part of the colon or creating a colostomy to divert stool away from the inflamed area.


4. Polyps

Colorectal polyps can turn into cancer and are growths in the colon or rectum. Surgical procedures like polypectomy involve removing these growths to prevent cancerous progression.


5. Anal Disorders

Conditions like anal fissures, anal fistulas, and haemorrhoids can cause significant discomfort. Surgical interventions, such as hemorrhoidectomy or fistula repair, may be recommended when conservative treatments fail to provide relief.


6. Perforations And Obstructions

Bowel perforations (tears) and obstructions can occur due to various causes, including trauma, infections, or strictures. Emergency colorectal surgery may be needed to repair perforations and remove obstructions.


7. Rectal Prolapse

Rectal prolapse is a pelvic floor disorder where the rectum protrudes out of the anus. Colorectal surgery is often part of the treatment plan, involving the repositioning and fixation of the rectum to prevent further prolapse.


8. Benign Tumors And Growths

Noncancerous growths like adenomatous polyps or lipomas in the colon or rectum can be removed through colorectal surgery to alleviate symptoms or reduce the risk of complications.


When Colorectal Surgery Is Considered?

It's important to note that colorectal surgery is not always the first-line treatment for these conditions. In some cases, conservative approaches, such as medications, lifestyle modifications, and dietary changes, are initially attempted to manage symptoms and avoid surgery.

The decision to pursue colorectal surgery is typically made in consultation with an experienced surgeon and is based on the severity of the condition, the overall health of the patient, and their individual needs and preferences.

Colorectal surgery becomes a viable option when conservative measures fail to address the digestive disorder adequately or when the condition has progressed to a point where surgical intervention is necessary.

Some of the circumstances where a doctor may recommend colorectal surgery are:

  • Lack of response to conservative treatments

  • Complications such as bowel obstruction, perforation, or abscess formation

  • Risk of colon cancer or malignancy

  • Severe or chronic symptoms that impair daily functioning

Benefits Of Colorectal Surgery

Patients suffering from digestive disorders can benefit greatly from colorectal surgery. These are:


Symptom Relief:

Colorectal surgery can provide significant relief from the symptoms associated with digestive disorders. This may include alleviating abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation, rectal bleeding, and other discomforts.


Cancer Treatment:

In cases of colorectal cancer, surgery can be curative, especially when cancer is detected at early stages. Surgical removal of cancerous tissue and nearby lymph nodes can offer a chance for a complete recovery.


Prevention Of Complications And Malignancy:

Colorectal surgery can help prevent complications associated with digestive disorders, such as bowel obstructions, perforations, or abscesses. Timely surgical intervention can minimise the risk of these serious complications.

Also, surgical removal of precancerous growths (polyps) in the colon or rectum can prevent them from developing into cancer, potentially saving lives.


Improved Quality Of Life:

For individuals with chronic and debilitating digestive conditions like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, colorectal surgery can enhance their overall quality of life by removing affected portions of the intestine and reducing disease-related symptoms.


Conclusion

Colorectal surgery plays a pivotal role in the comprehensive management of digestive disorders, offering hope and transformative solutions for individuals confronted with the challenges of gastrointestinal conditions.

Through the expertise of skilled colorectal surgeons in Singapore and advancements in medical science, this specialised field has evolved to encompass a wide range of surgical procedures, each tailored to address specific disorders affecting the colon and rectum.

Every patient's journey is unique, and the decision to embark on the path of colorectal surgery should be made in consultation with trusted colorectal specialists, taking into account individual health profiles and preferences.


Frequently Asked Questions

Ques. How Do I Choose A Colorectal Surgeon?

Ans. Choosing a colorectal surgeon is a critical decision. Look for a surgeon who is board-certified, has extensive experience in colorectal surgery, and is affiliated with a reputable medical institution or hospital.

Consider seeking referrals from primary care physicians or trusted friends and family members who have had positive experiences with colorectal surgeons.


Ques. What Should I Consider When Choosing A Colorectal Clinic?

Ans. When selecting a colorectal clinic, consider factors such as the clinic's reputation, the qualifications of the medical staff, and the range of services offered.

Ensure that the clinic is equipped with modern technology and facilities for diagnostics, colorectal surgery, and post-operative care. It's also important to assess the clinic's track record in treating your specific condition.


Ques. What Are The Post-Operative Care Needs Of Colorectal Surgery?

Ans. Post-surgery recovery varies depending on the procedure and individual factors. Patients may experience some pain and discomfort, but it can be managed with medication prescribed by the surgeon. Initially, dietary changes may be necessary, and the resumption of normal activities should be gradual as per the surgeon's recommendations. Follow-up appointments are crucial for monitoring progress and addressing any concerns.

Complex surgeries, such as colorectal cancer resections, often involve a more extended recovery and may necessitate additional support. Hence, hiring a caregiver may be recommended.


Ques. Are There Risks Associated With Colorectal Surgery?

Ans. Like any surgery, colorectal surgery carries inherent risks, including infection, bleeding, and anaesthesia-related complications, and changes in bowel habits. The specific risks can vary depending on the procedure and individual health factors.

It's important to discuss potential risks with your surgeon and follow their preoperative and post-operative instructions carefully to minimise complications.


To read more about surgery you can read following more articles related to these issues on further blogs



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