Ulcerative colitis (UC)--a form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and diarrhoea--is a chronic disease that does not leave those it affects with many options. While not typically life threatening, it is life altering in many ways.
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Surgery is considered to be the last option after all other treatment options such as medications, herbal remedies and special diets fail. Consult your doctor to make sure you are prepared for surgical options and research the recovery time after surgery.
Surgery is necessary in cases of severe infection in ulcerative colitis (excessive bleeding, mucous, pain). In some cases, an infection can become overwhelming (abscesses in the intestines, rectum), and colectomy surgery becomes a necessity. If you cannot enter a remission period, you may need to consider surgery.
Surgery Options: Proctocolectomy with Ileostomy
This procedure involves two separate surgeries: the removal of the rectum, anus and colon and the addition of a colostomy bag attached to the body for external waste removal. This is an "older" procedure in the sense that it has been performed for many years as an option for ulcerative colitis surgery. It does involve a hospital stay and an altered diet.
Recovery: Proctocolectomy with Ileostomy
When proctocolectomy with Ileostomy surgery is complete, you must wear an external waste bag at all times to collect waste from the intestines. You can expect to be in the hosptial for about 1-2 weeks with this procedure. It will take anywhere from 4-6 weeks until you feel fully recovered from surgery and feel ready for work or a normal diet. Once you have the colostomy bag, it must be emptied several times a day. It is small, basically unnoticeable to anyone who doesn't know you have one, and does not cause any unpleasant odours.
Surgery Options: Restorative Proctocolectomy
Restorative proctocolectomy is a more recent, and more commonly used, procedure. This procedure does not require the usage of an external colostomy bag to remove waste. Waste can be passed as it normally does through the body and out the rectum. The procedure involves the creation of a J-pouch in the body as a workaround to having the colon removed. For this process to be complete, three to four surgeries are required.
Recovery: Restorative Proctocolectomy
Recovery time from this procedure may actually take longer than that of individuals who have a colostomy bag. This is because the internal organs take longer to heal once the pouch is created in the body. You have a temporary colostomy bag while your intestines heal and the pouch becomes ready for use.
The recovery time varies. While a hospital stay is typically five days, a recovery period may be up to four months (because of the multiple surgeries to create the pouch). Many UC patients consider this time worth it because the success rate is high and UC symptoms drastically decrease. For example, an individual who was using the bathroom 15 to 20 times a day may go only four times a day and not experience an uncontrollable urge as often.
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