Removing a Colon Through a Belly Button (Video)

colon removal sugery

Not so long ago, surgeons needed to make a 10- or 15-inch incision in a person’s abdomen to remove a person’s colon.

Today, a person’s entire large intestine and rectum (which make up the colon) can be removed leaving only a coin-sized scar hidden in a person’s belly button.

In my practice, I remove one or two colons each week using this technique.

Warning: The video is graphic. Viewer discretion is advised.

One of the unique facets of colon surgery, which is not true for every specialty, is that the surgeon must remove the colon intact. This means that we always need to make a 2- to 3-cm incision to get the colon out. Three centimeters is plenty of room to put two instruments and a camera and remove a colon with no added incisions.

This procedure, which was first performed at Cleveland Clinic, is called a “single-port proctocolectomy.” It is a minimally invasive technique that offers many benefits to patients with colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis or constipation when doctors advise that the colon be surgically removed.

Potential benefits of single-port proctocolectomy include:

  • Minimal or no scarring
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Faster recovery
  • Reduced pain

Single-port proctocolectomy is theorized to improve female fertility after surgery by minimizing scar tissue in the abdomen.

You might wonder how did surgeons go from performing open surgery with 10- or 15 –inch incisions to using one small incision?

The procedure evolved over time as surgeons looked for ways to make smaller incisions, use fewer “ports” (or special incisions to insert instruments) and access different extraction sites to help camouflage scars.

As an improvement to open surgery, surgeons started with traditional laparoscopic surgery to remove the colon – another minimally invasive surgery that was first performed at Cleveland Clinic. This effective technique leaves four to six incisions in the person’s abdomen. A special rod connected to a video camera is inserted through a small incision in the person’s abdomen. Then, three to five additional small incisions are made and used as “ports” in which to insert instruments to remove the colon.

As this method proved successful, single-port proctocolectomy was performed as a new advancement. During the procedure, a special port is placed over the belly button, allowing for attachment to a camera and instruments for removing the colon all through one incision.

The goal is to make the hole exactly big enough to get the colon out. It’s an amazing procedure, just getting ride of the colon, getting rid of what is making [people] sick turns them around very quickly.

Today, Cleveland Clinic is one of the few medical centers in the nation offering single-port proctocolectomy. To watch me in the operating room performing this procedure and the minimal recovery time that resulted, watch the video with this post.




Meagan Costedio, MD

Meagan Costedio, MD, is a surgeon in the Department of Colorectal Surgery whose interests include minimally invasive techniques.
  • c lees

    I’ve had 2 rectal fissures removed a few years apart and in different areas of rectum. Should I be worried.

  • Annie J

    I think this is one of the best articles I have ever read concerning this subject. One thing you didn’t address though, is medication as a cause of constipation. No amount of Metamucil has helped in that regard. This is medication that I have to take, so what advice is there for that situation?

  • Dianne jones

    I had silent bleeding. I was feeling awful for about a year. I went to donate blood. They tested me. My HGb was 5.5. I saw my MD. Had fissures in colon. Surgery stopped the bleed

  • weez

    I was taking low dose aspirin to lower colesterol It caused rectal Bleeding! I passed out in the bathtub, ended up
    In the Hospital.. I stopped the aspirin and the bleeding stopped!

    • Abdominal Pain

      Bleeding from WHERE? I blamed low-dose aspirin for bleeding which was actually coming from a POLYP, which could have been removed before it turned cancerous, but wasn’t. I too stopped the aspirin and the bleeding stopped. Then it started again…

      (Re-posted without the link.)

  • Bibi

    Metamucil is full of artificial ingredients. Organic Psyllium husks are much healthier.

  • Ghyail Williams

    I now use metamucil, very happy with the results.

  • Karen Jones

    A good friend of mine is bleeding from somewhere indide and the Doctor’s cant find out where.He has had all the test done twice are more and still they cant seem to find where its comming from.Please what could this be?

  • Emily

    I have a what seems like a hemorrhoid and it itches, but I don’t use the flushable wipes, do you know what it could be and why it itches ?

  • Echo

    I had a terrible experience with diverticulosis and ended up in the ER for 4 hours and finally the pain subsided and I went home with no further treatment. They hadn’t seen me in four hours but then suddenly said I shouldn’t leave because it could have been kidney stones. Three days later I was scheduled for an MRI to determine if I had diverticulosis — and I do !!! I had been eating lots of nuts and seeds prior to the onset of the severe pain. I don’t eat them now and the pain is GONE! Occasionally, I believe I feel a “soft” pain probably from “gas” if I eat too many cruciferous veggies such as broccoli or cauliflower. My BEST remedy for the pain is a heating pad applied to the painful area — most articles say it’s on the LEFT side — mine is on the right — and I drink a double-strength cup of hot chamomile tea which also works 100% of the time when you have trapped gas. It works generally in 20 minutes.
    Maybe this all sounds crazy to you, but I learned of the chamomile trick years ago from an older woman in my office. I tried it and swear by it. Awesome.
    Also, I STILL believe in staying away from the nuts, seeds, popcorn, corn, etc. that in the past they said irritated the pockets in the colon. The pain it caused me that put me in the ER that day is not worth eating stuff like that again. I miss them, but I’m not a glutton for pain either. One or the other. Best wishes.

    • terryparker

      i also just found my right side was in so much pain and it felt like the first hard labor pains . i woke up to this i believe my was brought on by strawberries and hornoll less popcorn. ty you for sharing i am trying to ;learn much more about this condition.

      • Echo

        And thank you for verifying that it CAN be on the RIGHT side. My doctor and all the accounts I’ve read have indicated on the LEFT side. On the other hand, the doctor said it is rare on the right side. Leave it to me (and now you!!!) to be different!!! I don’t mind being different, but when it strikes, it’s vicious. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you — labor pains is right. Just unbelievable. The thing that’s amazing to me is that it stops you in your tracks from eating things that are supposed to be good for you — nuts, seeds, and some fruits because of their seeds. Don’t forget, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and squash, too! And DEFINITELY NO CORN OR POPCORN!!! You will die a slow death if you eat them — or you’ll think you’re dying . . . I’m sorry we share the same malady. Do take care and watch other things like salad dressings with seeds, etc.
        A LOT of label/ingredient reading . . . ;(

      • Echo

        One more thing — actually a couple more things — don’t overdo on the cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower and broccoli and perhaps spinach — anything that may cause gas. Fiber is good for you, but watch that, too, as it may cause gas if eaten in large amounts. BUT, if you should get those awful pains — and this is for EVERYONE — keep CHAMOMILE TEA on hand AT ALL TIMES . . . Many years ago an older woman told me about it and how it relieves that “bloated feeling”. Just brew up a cup, let it steep about 6 minutes and drink as much as you can while it’s still hot. Give it about 10-15 minutes to work. You may have to go to the bathroom, burp or pass gas, but it won’t last long but the results are worth it. Not a savory subject to discuss, but saves hours of pain.