Bowel Resection & Weight Loss

Two surgeons preparing for surgery, looking at medical equipment
Surgeons about to operate on a patient (Image: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images)

Many types of surgery — particularly procedures involving the digestive system — lead to various post-operative side effects including weight loss. Bowel resections, which involve removing portions of either the small or large intestines, are no exception. But weight loss is only one of many possible complications of bowel resection procedures.

How the Procedures Work

Bowel resections entail surgeons removing portions of dead or diseased intestines and then reconnecting the healthy portions of the bowels. Surgeons perform the procedures through traditional open surgery, considered by many in the medical community to be invasive, or laparoscopically, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Laparoscopic procedures utilize smaller incisions than open surgery and long tubes with microscopic viewing and cutting abilities.

Time Frame of Weight Loss and Recovery

A certain degree of weight loss follows nearly all bowel resection procedures, according to StateUniversity.com. Recovery of strength and reversal of weight loss often take two months or more following traditional open surgery, according to State University and Cedars-Sinai. However, both sources report that the less invasive laparoscopic surgery can reduce healing time to a matter of weeks, leading to less adverse weight loss.

Considerations for Healing

Cedar-Sinai reports that walking and other low-impact body movement of bowel resection patients in the first two days following surgery cut down on the healing time, ultimately meaning less adverse weight loss. Walking reduces gas pains and aids bowels in resuming their proper functions, according to the hospital's website. One factor leading to weight loss following bowel resection surgery is the liquid diet of most recovering patients for five days or more following the procedure and during the healing process.

Other Potential Side Effects

Beyond weight loss are other common side effects and complications following bowel resection procedures, according to the Encyclopedia of Surgery. Bowel resection patients often experience pain and discomfort when breathing following surgery, with pain emanating from the incision site during inhaling and exhaling deeply. The Encyclopedia of Surgery also notes swelling in the incision area, bleeding, abdominal pain, constipation, nausea and vomiting can follow such procedures. And risks include infection of the surgical site and adverse reactions to medication.

Types of Diseases and Conditions

The benefits of bowel resection surgery often outweigh the risks of weight loss or other side effects or complications. Cedars-Sinai lists bowel resection and other colorectal surgeries as potential treatment for colorectal cancer, which is among the top three leading causes of cancer related deaths in U.S. men and women. Surgeons also use the procedure to treat potentially fatal bowel obstructions, ulcerative colitis and other painful diseases of the intestines, according to the Encyclopedia of Surgery.

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