Small Bowel Resection

(Small Intestine Surgery; Ileum Surgery)


A small bowel resection is the removal of part of the small intestine.

Small Intestine

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Reasons for Procedure

This surgery may be done to treat a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Intestinal blockage
  • Bleeding, infection, ulcers, or holes in the small intestines
  • Crohn disease
  • Cancer
  • Precancerous polyps
  • Injury to the intestine

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to other organs or structures
  • Blockage of the intestine caused by scar tissue
  • Hernia at the incision site
  • Leaking from the intestine
  • Problems getting enough nutrients

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery
  • Cleaning the bowels


The doctor will give general anesthesia. You will be asleep.

Description of Procedure

The surgery may be done in one of two ways:

Open Surgery

An incision will be made in the abdomen. The diseased section of intestine will be removed. If any healthy intestine is left, the ends will be joined together. If not, an opening (stoma) in the abdomen will be made to allow stool to exit into a bag. The surgical incision will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the area.

Laparoscopic Surgery

Small incisions will be made in the abdomen. A tube will be passed through one of the incisions. It will push gas into the belly. This will make it easier for the doctor to view the area. A camera will allow the doctor to see inside the belly. Other tools will be passed through the incisions. They will be used to remove the diseased section of intestine. If any healthy intestine is left, the ends will be joined together. If not, an opening (stoma) in the abdomen will be made to allow stool to exit into a bag. The surgical incisions will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the area.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 to 4 hours

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first week. Medicine and home care help.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is 5 to 7 days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

After the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give medicines to control pain or nausea
  • Teach stoma care, if needed
  • Place a tube through the nose and into the stomach to give the area time to rest
  • Give IV nutrition while the intestine heals

At Home

Recovery will take 1 to 2 months. Physical activity will be limited during this time. You will need to delay your return to work.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, excess bleeding, or drainage from the incision
  • Lasting nausea or vomiting
  • Pain you cannot control with medicine
  • Problems passing urine or stool, including bleeding
  • New or unexpected symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American College of Surgeons
National Cancer Institute


Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Cancer Society


Colorectal surgery considerations. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed January 14, 2021.
Lopes M, Duarte T, et al. Clinical outcome of patients submitted to resection of the small bowel segments. Clin Surg. 2018; 3: 2061.
Small bowel resection. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: Accessed January 14, 2021.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/14/2021

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