Ulcerative Colitis (UC) Surgery

Abdominal pain patient woman having medical exam with doctor
Medical illustration of ileoanal anastomosis surgery, with annotations.
If you have tried other treatments for UC and they have not been effective, your specialist may suggest surgery. You may also opt to undergo surgery for UC if you want to eliminate your risk of colorectal cancer and avoid further complications. Surgery for ulcerative colitis removes the diseased tissue in your digestive tract. This procedure includes either a proctocolectomy (removal of the colon and rectum) or a colectomy (removing the colon). Your surgeon then places an internal or external pouch system to restore function to your digestive tract.

Though the procedures are extensive, unlike with Crohn’s disease, surgery can greatly reduce or altogether cure your UC symptoms. Your surgeon may use laparoscopic (multiple, tiny incisions) surgery or open (one larger incision) surgery to address your UC. Several factors impact the best procedure for your condition, including recent weight loss, presence of active colitis, urgency of operation, higher body mass index (BMI) and recent steroid use. Both procedures will change how your body eliminates waste, and they include:

Proctocolectomy with ileal J-pouch creation

This procedure is the most commonly recommended elective surgery to cure UC. Doctors begin with a proctocolectomy to remove the colon and rectum. They then replace those organs with a J-pouch, which is created from your small bowel and made to function similarly to a rectum for bowel elimination. Your surgeon may recommend a one-, two- or three-stage procedure, each allowing your body a different amount of time to heal between removing your diseased organs and replacing them with a J-pouch. Based on your specific health factors, your surgeon will discuss which approach is best for you.

Proctocolectomy or colectomy with end ileostomy

In this procedure, your surgeon removes the diseased colon and/or rectum. Afterward, they will create an ileostomy, which connects to an ostomy pouch to collect waste outside your body. Your specialist may recommend this procedure if you have other severe conditions that can put you at high risk for further complications.

Living with an ostomy bag can take some getting used to. The team at UNC REX will be on hand to provide the support and resources you need to get back to living your best life.