A colon polypectomy is the removal of polyps from the inside lining of the colon, also called the large intestine. A polyp is a mass of tissue. Some types of polyps can develop into cancer. Most polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
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Reasons for Procedure
The purpose of the surgery is to remove a polyp. It is done to prevent colon cancer.
In rare cases, larger polyps can cause troublesome symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and bowel irregularities. A polyp removal will relieve these symptoms.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a polypectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Colon perforation
- Adverse reaction to the anesthesia
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor will likely do the following:
- Physical exam and health history.
- Review of medications.
- Blood tests.
- Pictures of your colon may need to be taken. This can be done with X-rays or a barium enema.
- An examination of your intestine may need to be done. This can be done with a diagnostic colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
Your colon must be completely cleaned before the procedure. Any stool left in the intestine will block the view. This preparation may start several days before the procedure. Follow your doctor's instructions, which may include any of the following cleansing methods:
- Enemas—fluid introduced into the rectum to stimulate a bowel movement
- Laxatives—medications that cause you to have soft bowel movements
- A clear-liquid diet
- Oral cathartic medications—a fluid you drink to help stimulate a bowel movement
Leading up to your procedure:
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
- The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you need to adjust your insulin dose.
- Arrange for a ride home after the procedure.
You will receive a sedative. This will help you relax. You will be drowsy but awake.
Description of the Procedure
You will be asked to lie on your side or on your back. A scope, a long flexible tube with a camera on the end, will be inserted through the anus. It will be slowly pushed through the rectum to the colon. The scope will also add air to open the colon.
Using the scope, the doctor will locate the polyp. The polyp will be snipped off with a wire snare from the scope. In some cases, the polyp may be destroyed with an electric current. The electric current is also used to close the wound and stop bleeding. The polyps will then be removed for lab testing. When the doctor is finished, the scope will be slowly removed.
For larger polyps, a laparoscopic surgical procedure may be needed. Special surgical tools will be inserted through small incisions in the abdomen. The tools will be used to locate and remove the polyp.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
The special cleaning solution, laxatives, and/or enemas often cause discomfort. During and following the procedure, there is little or no pain. You may feel pressure, bloating, and/or cramping because of the air passed into the colon. This discomfort will go away with the passing of gas. You may be given pain medication. If not, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers for discomfort.
At the Care Center
The polyps will be sent to a lab for testing.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions, which may include:
- Avoiding tea, coffee, cola drinks, alcohol, and spicy foods for at least 2-3 days following surgery. These can irritate the digestive system.
- You will be scheduled for a follow-up colonoscopy in the future. It will be important to check for polyps.
Your doctor will discuss the results with you either the day of surgery or the following day.
Call Your Doctor
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the rectum—up to ½ cup per day of blood can be expected for up to 3-4 days following polypectomy
- Black, tarry stools
- Severe abdominal pain
- Hard, swollen abdomen
- Inability to pass gas or stool
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Gastroenterological Association
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Colon polypectomy (polyp removal). Dartmouth-Hitchcock website. Available at: http://patients.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/gi/colon_polypectomy.html. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Colonoscopy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114112/Colonoscopy. Updated March 21, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2017.
Consolo P, Luigiano C, Strangio G, et al. Efficacy, risk factors, and complications of endoscopic polypectomy: ten-year experience at a single center. World J Gastroenterol. 2008;14(15): 2354-2369.
Treatment for colon polyps. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/colon-polyps/treatment. Updated November 2014. Accessed October 3, 2017.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 9/12/2014