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Colectomy – Standard Treatment Guidelines

Colectomy – Standard Treatment Guidelines

Sir William Arbuthnot was one of the early proponents of the usefulness of total colectomies. Colectomy is commonly performed for the treatment of colon cancer.

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has issued the Standard Treatment Guidelines for Colectomy. Following are the major recommendations :

Definition :

Colectomy implies the surgical resection of any extent of the large intestine (colon). Based on the segment of colon removed colectomies are termed as

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1. Right hemicolectomy.

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2. Extended right hemicolectomy

3. Transverse colectomy

4. V resection

5. Left hemicolectomy

6. Extended left hemicolectomy

7. Sigmoidectomy

8. Proctosigmoidectomy

9. Total colectomy

10. Total proctocolectomy

11. Subtotal colectomy

Indian Incidence : not documented

Differential Diagnosis

  • Polyps
  • Inflammatory bowel disease-ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease
  • Tuberculous stricture of the large bowel with obstruction
  • Vascular malformations with lower gastro intestinal bleeding
  • Amoebiasis


In familiar situations like FAP & HNPCC early colectomy is advised.

It is important to understand the carcinogenesis in colorectal cancer & the associated molecular events.

Environmental Factors also pay an important role, particularly dietary factors & estrogen replacement.

Association between hyperplastic polyposis & colorectal cancer & adenomas called sporadic MIS tumuors

Colorectal cancers: are Sporadic in 75% cases & Genetic in 25% (younger age at diagnosis)

Positive Familial history is present in 15%-20%.

HNPCC (5%)-80% risk

FAP(less than 1%)-100% risk of development of CRC – prophylactic total colectomy/proctocolectomy


Genetic Counselling

Predisposition Should be counselled & Screened For Colon Cancer.

Screening colonoscopy and polypectomy – reduces colon cancer mortality.

Optimal Diagnostic Criteria :

Situation 1

Clinical Diagnosis

Anatomical locations and clinical manifestations of colon cancer

Distribution % Ascending / Caecum Transverse Descending/Sigmoid










Abdominal pain








Changing bowel




Abdominal pain

Mass obstruction


Low back pain


  • Haemogram
  • Colonoscopy – investigation of choice
  •                          – Biopsy & HPE
  •                          – Brush cytology if biopsy is not possible
  •  X-ray abdomen – if patient presents with features of large bowel obstruction
  • Double contrast barium enema :
  1. When colonoscopy is contra indicated or not available
  2. Findings – constant irregular filling defect
  3. Detects associated lesions
  4. Small ulcerative lesions can be diagnosed
  • USG abdomen
  • Endoluminal ultrasound – if available
  • CECT – if available is used in large palpable abdominal masses

                 = To determine local invasion

  • Urograms – when evidence of hydronephrosis on USG/ CT in left sided tumours


1. Pre op evaluation of staging, respectability, patient’s operative risks are mandatory.

2. Accurate localization of tumour – of particular importance.

  1. Sometimes known cancer may not be apparent on serosal aspect.
  2. Localization by tattooing during colonoscopy, Barium enema.
  3. Pre op CT, USG assessment of iver metastasis should be done

Pre OP Preparation :

Mechanical bowel preparation

Prophylactic antibiotics

Blood grouping and cross matching

Thromboembolism prophylaxis

Operative Techniques :

Resection should follow

Standard oncological principles:

  • Proximal ligation of primary arterial supply at its margins
  • Adequate proximal & distal margins(5 cm) determined by area supplied by the primary feeder artery
  • Appropriate lymphadenectomy – harvesting of minimum 12 nodes
  • Extent of resection is an important prognostic factor (SAGES guidelines 2000)
  • Any tumour not removed intraoperatively strongly influences prognosis & therapy

          Ro – absence of residual tumour, margins free histologically

          R1 – no gross residual tumour but margins histologically positive

          R2 – residual gross disease remains unresected

Radial Margin : 

T4 lesions are a complex group & should be considered separate from other T groups

Radial tumour free margins should be resected. Radial margin should be histologically free of disease for resection to be curative.

Specimen labeling, marking are important for a good pathological report

R1 & R2 resection – incomplete resection for cure affects curability though TNM stage remains same

Lateral Circumferential Margin :

In addition to radial, proximal & distal margins, circumferential margins should also be pathologically assessed. Positive margins are associated with increased rate of local and distal failure.

Disease free survival and mortality significantly related to margin involvement after TME

ADJUVANT Ro stage:

Adjuvant therapies require complete resection

A case is not Ro if it is

  • Non enbloc resection
  • Radial margins positive for disease
  • Bowel margin positive for disease
  • Residual lymph node disease present or
  • Nx (incomplete staging)

Lymphadenectomy :

Should be radical (up to the level of origin of primary feeding artery)

Apical nodes positive for disease may have prognostic significance in addition to number of positive lymph nodes

ENBLOC RESECTION of adherent tumours : En bloc removal of adjacent organs locally invaded by cancer colon can achieve survival rates similar to patients with tumour that do not invade an adjacent organ, provided negatgive resection margins are achieved.

Perforation of Tumour Should be Avoided (Sages Guideline)

Inadvertent full thickness perforation of rectum would probably classify tumour as T4 and resection as R1

Perforation at the site of cancer, as opposed to an area remote from the tumour has a greater impact on survival & local recurrence.

Inadvertent local perforation predisposes to local recurrence and warrants post-operative radiotherapy.

Intraoperative Spillage :

Has AN Independentt Effect on Prognosis

Adjuvant radiotherapy may be considered to decrease rates of local recurrence

No Touch Technique :

Value inconclusive

Surgical Procedures :

Anatomical Resection of Colon Cancer

Tumour location Vascular Ligation Colon resection Anastamosis
Caecum, ascending colon ileo-colic, right colic Right hemicolectomy ileotransverse colostomy
Hepatic flexure, Proximal transverse colon ileocolic right, middle colic Extended right hemicolectomy with omentectomy iIeodescending colostomy
Distal transverse colon splenic flexure ileocolic right, middle or left branch of middle colic, left colic Extended right hemicolectomy with omentectomy or Left hemicolectomy ileosigmoid colostomy or Transverse sigmoid colostomy
Descending colon Inferior mesenteric or left colic Left hemicolectomy Transverse colorectal anastamosis
Sigmoid colon Inferior mesenteric or sigmoid Left colectomy or Sigmoid resection Transverse colorectal anastamosis or descending colorectal anastamosis

Colectomy may be performed by the

i) Conventional open technique

Referral criteria:

Patients suspected of colon cancer & biopsy proven should be referred to a higher centre for further evaluation and treatment when

1) Adequate surgical facilities are not available / surgeon does not have sufficient experience in colon cancer surgery.

2) Competent pathologist to report on malignant lesions as per standard oncological guidelines is not available.

3) For adjuvant / neo-adjuvant radio and chemo therapy


Patient requiring colectomy for biopsy proven cancer are best referred to a super specialty centre

In view of the need for multi modality treatment.


All investigations as in situation 1

  • Spiral CT in elderly patients more than 80 years
  • CT colonoscopy also called virtual colonoscopy – 6 mm polyps may be picked up effectively
  • CEA – fetal glycoprotein

                     – Increased pre op CEA in node positive Ca – indication for chemotherapy

  • MRI :
  • PET : detection of metastasis
  • SPECT – if single photon emission is studied, such as technetium or thallium
  • FDG-PET – useful in evaluation of recurrent colorectal cancer

                           -Differentiates post op changes from recurrent / residual disease

                           -Useful diagnostic tool but prohibitive cost

  • CT-PET – fusion tests provide the most powerful integrated images

                           -Using 131 I , 111 In, 99m Tc bound to monoclonal antibodies, leucocytes & erythrocytes.


As outlined in situation 1.

Laparoscopic resection is gaining popularity. However it is not freely available & performed as per protocols.

Special Counsiderations

A. Synchronous malignancies or polyps

           Patients with synchronous malignancies should be considered for subtotal colectomy depending                 on the distance between lesions

           Colonic cancer with multiple adenomatous polyps – subtotal colectomy

          (Due to increased risk of metachronous lesion and to facilitate surveillance of the remaining colon)

Factors that influence the decision to perform prophylactic subtotal colectomy

  • number
  • location
  • size of accompanying polyps
  • age
  • compliance of patient

B. Cancer is a polyp

             Complete endoscopic removal of polyp with cancer in situ – no further treatment

Histoplathology shows invasive carcinoma:

             Ensure that endoscopic polypectomy was complete

             Specimen was submitted with proper orientation to the pathologist for histopathology

Carcinoma at margin of resection requires formal resection

Carcinoma with free margins – a. thorough pathological review,

                                                          b. identification of adverse histological features

  1. poor differentiation,
  2. lymphatic or venous invasion
  3. invasion into the stock of the polyp – formal resection

It is difficult to locate the previous polypectomy site during surgery

Even if polyp is not removed it may be soft and difficult to palpate through the colon wall

Endoscopic distance (from anal verge or dentate line) misleading

Polypectomy site should be videotaped for later review and marked with vital dye that can be seen serosally at the time of surgery

C. Obstructing Cancers- 2% of colorectal cancers

Partial obstruction – Gentle bowel preparation over several days-Elective surgery

Total obstruction

  • Rt colon cancers – Rt Hemi colectomy – immediate ileocolostomy
  • Lt colon cancers

1) Endoscopic decompression by laser passed beyond the obstructed

Segment – This allows mechanical preparation and elective resection.

  • This is possible only when the narrowed lumen can be traversed by the endoscope.
  • It is not possible when obstruction is complete

      2) Primary resection and immediate anastamosis with ontable colonic washout with or without                        proximal colostomy.

       3) Primary resection with colostomy. Anastamosis at second stage.

        4) Subtotal colectomy with primary anastamosis

        5) Decompressive colostomy followed by formal colonic resection

D. Adjacent organ involvement- 10%

Locally advanced tumours are potentially curable with multi organ resection.-Do not necessarily Portend a dismal prognosis.

  • A non metastasizing variant of colon cancer grows to a large size without spreading to regional nodes
  • Separation of adhesions adjacent to a malignancy can lead to dissemination of tumour cells.
  • Enbloc resection of these tumours, depending on location can lead to five year survivals of 70% Hepatic metastases – 10% at the time of exploration
  • Solitary metastasis amenable to –wedge resection with clear margins can be removed concomitantly.
  • Formal hepatic lobectomy done as a second stage procedure.

E. Ovarian metastasis – 7% at the time of colon resection

Oophorectomy: at the time of colorectal surgery


  1. Large ovarian metastasis (Krukenbergt’s tumour) which are symptomatic (prevents second surgery for the metastasis, benefit of preventing primary ovarian cancer)
  2. Direct ovarian involvement
  3. Post menopausal women – prophylactic oophorectomy

F. Inadvertent Perforation

  • Predisposes to local recurrence
  • Warrants post op radiotherapy

Follow up

Aim: Early detection of recurrence or metachronous lesion

History Physical examination

Faecal occult blood

CBC                               }                                                 every 3 months-first 3 years

LFT                                }                                                 every 6 months additional 2 years

Tumour markers (CEA) – monthly – 3 years, 3 monthly-next 2 years

Colonoscopy – first colonoscopy within 6-12 months of surgery, yearly-next 2 years, 2-3 yearly thereafter.


CT abdomen and pelvis – if primary loco regionally advanced

  •                                          LFT ↑
  •                                          CEA ↑

80-90% of recurrence of colon cancers occurs in the first two years.


All patients should be admitted when a colectomy is planned



  1. Surgeon: diagnosis & work up               Pre operative planningOperative procedurePost operative follow up
  2. Radiotherapist : radiotherapy – neoadjuvant & adjuvant
  3. Medical oncologist : Chemotherapy
  4. Anesthetist: PAC, anesthesia, post op ICU management


  • Siting of colostomy when required by some nurse
  • Care of stoma
  • Dressing of the wound
  • Pre & post operative care


  • Pre op equipment and drugs to be checked and kept ready
  • Assist anesthetist in the OT
  • Assist the surgeon, positioning of the patient

Resources Required For One Patient / Procedure (Patient weight 60 Kgs)

Situation Human Resources Investigations Drugs/Consumables Equipment







Surgeon – 1 Medical Officer / Assistant Surgeon – 1

Anesthetist – 1 Pathologist – 1 Staff Nurse – 1 Technician – 1 Nursing Orderly – 1

Sweeper – 1


Urine Analysis Blood Sugar S. Electrolytes



X-Ray – Chest





I.V. Fluids



Catheters Anesthetic drugs Dressings

Stoma bags

OT Table &


Instrument trolley

General Surgery

Set Cautery

Suction Anesthetic















Consultant – 1

Residents – 1

Anesthetist – 1

Pathologist – 1

Medical Oncologist – 1

Radiotherapist – 1

Staff Nurse – 2

Stoma therapist – 1

Technician – 1

Nursing Orderly – 1

Sweeper – 1

Same as above +



Coagulation Profile



CT Scan






Same as above












Same as above +





Endo GI








Guidelines by The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare :

Dr. Ajit Sinha & Dr. V. Ramesh

Source: self

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