Metabolic consequences of total colectomy

Author(s): Christl SU, Scheppach W


Colectomy is performed for inflammatory bowel disease, familial polyposis syndrome and colorectal carcinoma. Surgical procedures are ileostomy with or without pouch, ileorectal anastomosis or ileal pouch-anal anastomosis. One of the major functions of the intact large intestine is to absorb water and electrolytes. After colectomy, as much as 400-1000 ml of nearly isotonic ileostomy fluid may be excreted, resulting in a chronic salt and water depletion. This is compensated for by an activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Reduced urine volumes may cause kidney stones. Both dehydration and renal sodium retention are probably less frequent in patients with ileal pouch-anal anastomosis. Absorption of nutrients in general is not impaired by colectomy. The large intestine salvages energy from malabsorbed organic matter through absorption of the short-chain fatty acids produced in bacterial fermentation. In ileostomy patients, fermentation is negligible, which leads to a significant loss of energy in the ileostomy fluid. Pouches are colonized by a bacterial flora similar to colonic bacteria. In these patients conservation of energy from malabsorbed substrate may be similar to healthy subjects. Resection of ileum and bacterial colonization may lead to malabsorption of vitamin B12 and bile acids. The latter may cause increased incidence of biliary cholesterol stones. Pouchitis is a frequent problem which may be caused by a deficiency of short-chain fatty acids and glutamine in the pouch contents. It is concluded that although the colon is not essential as a digestive organ in man, colectomy results in a number of metabolic changes. The ileal pouch-anal anastomosis may in part substitute for the functions of the large intestine.

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