What to Expect when Undergoing Hartmanns Procedure

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Hartmann’s procedure is an operation when the rectum and a section of the bowel is surgically removed.  This surgery, which once was commonly used to treat diverticulitis and colon cancer is now more commonly used in emergency cases when the bowel has an obstruction or perforated to the point where it no longer functions properly.

For patients who have to undergo Hartmann’s procedure, there are certain things that they should expect prior to the procedure and in the days and weeks following it.  When the surgery is performed as part of a routine surgery to promote overall health, there are a few things that must be checked first to ensure that the person is in a healthy enough state for the procedure to be successful.  Such health checks may include blood tests, an electrocardiogram, and x-rays.  In cases where the surgery is an emergency one, there is a chance that these tests will not be able to be performed due to time constraints.

Once a person has been deemed healthy enough to undergo the surgery, the next step is to have the surgery itself.  Generally, the Hartmann’s procedure will last anywhere between two and four hours from start to finish, during which time, the surgery will be completed in several different stages.

In the first stage, an incision is made in the abdomen, where the abdomen is opened up and the bowel and rectum are exposed.  Next, the tissue that is diseased is identified and removed.  Then, a stoma (an opening that connects a portion of the body cavity to the outside world) is created in the wall of the abdomen that gets connected to the bowel so that fecal waste has a way to exit from the body.  Following the connection between the stoma and the bowels, the patient is then fitted with a colostomy bag, which is used to collect the waste on the outside of the body.

Following the procedure, patients should plan on spending an addition five to twelve days in the hospital so that they can be observed and to ensure that no complications arise from the surgery.   During this time, typically, a liquid diet is recommended so that the bowel has proper time to heal without any irritations while the bowels regain regular functions.

After a few days, patients may be able to go back to their normal diet with some small modifications, but ultimately, it can take weeks to heal completely.  While in recovery, although things may begin to feel like they have gotten back to normal, it is important to remember that the Hartmann’s procedure is indeed a major surgery, therefore any activities that are overly strenuous should be avoided, and all doctor's orders should be strictly followed.

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