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What Is an Enterotomy?

An enterotomy is a surgical incision into the intestine, often performed to remove obstructions or foreign objects. This precise procedure requires careful execution to prevent complications. With illustrative images, we'll guide you through the intricacies of this life-saving operation. How does this intervention impact patient recovery? Join us as we unveil the steps and outcomes of an enterotomy.
J. Beam
J. Beam

An enterotomy is the medical term for an incision within the intestine. The incision may be intentionally made by a surgeon to perform repair or removal of part of the intestines or it may be an unintentional complication of abdominal surgery performed for reasons not involving the intestines. Studies indicate that previous abdominal surgery may increase the chance of inadvertent enterotomy during subsequent abdominal surgery and that this complication may be underreported.

The term can literally refer to any incision in any part of the intestine. The intestines are comprised of two parts: the small and large intestine. The small intestine is the longer length of intestine that begins directly beneath the stomach and the large intestine is the shorter length ending at the rectum. An incision into any part of the intestine would be called an enterotomy.

Enterotomy can literally refer to an incision in the large or small intestine.
Enterotomy can literally refer to an incision in the large or small intestine.

When performed as part of a surgical procedure to the intestines, the term for the surgical procedure would supersede the medical term for the incision. Examples could include removal of part of the small bowel, a procedure called small bowel resection or removal of the colon, a procedure called colectomy. The term enterotomy may also be used in conjunction with the affected anatomy, such as a small bowel enterotomy or an incision made to the small bowel portion of the intestine.

The type of abdominal surgery performed depends on the needs of each patient.
The type of abdominal surgery performed depends on the needs of each patient.

Whether surgically necessary or inadvertent, enterotomy repair can be performed with laparascopic surgery, the least invasive method of abdominal surgery. Common abdominal surgeries include appendectomy, exploratory laparotomy, hysterectomy and gall bladder removal. Less common abdominal surgeries include treatments for colon cancer and Crohn’s disease and hernia repair.

Surgeons may unintentionally create an enterotomy while performing abdominal surgery.
Surgeons may unintentionally create an enterotomy while performing abdominal surgery.

One of the reasons why an inadvertent enterotomy may occur during abdominal surgery may be because of the relatively massive size of the intestine and the limited field of vision within the abdominal cavity. The small and large intestines together are comprised of a series of tube-like organs measuring about 20 – 25 feet (6.09 – 7.62 meters) in length for the average adult. They are wound closely together and located between the stomach and rectum. The remaining abdominal organs, including the pancreas, liver, and kidneys are also contained within the abdominal cavity, perhaps limiting full vision of all parts during surgical procedures.

An enterotomy may be performed during emergency abdominal surgery.
An enterotomy may be performed during emergency abdominal surgery.

Inadvertent enterotomy is not the only complication risk associated with abdominal surgery. Bleeding, hernia, and infection are other potential complications that arise from abdominal surgeries. Regardless of the need for abdominal surgery, a surgeon should discuss all risks associated with a procedure as well as any concerns regarding pre- and post-operative care.

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Discussion Comments

burcidi

My dog had an enterotomy this week. He swallowed something he was not supposed to and started crying a lot and vomiting. The vet took an x-ray, found a large object in his intestine. He had to be cut up to remove it, it turned out to be a piece of plastic.

I'm going to be watching him very closely from now on. The vet said that if the enterotomy hadn't been done right away, my dog's intestines would have been badly damaged from the plastic moving around.

burcinc

@feruze-- My surgeon made an inadvertent enterotomy during my hernia repair surgery. He wasn't able to repair it right away, so he put staples in and did another surgery for repair four days later. I was told about the enterotomy as soon as I woke up.

I was kind of upset at first, but these things happen. Surgery in the abdominal cavity is not at all easy like the article said and it's not like the incision was made on purpose.

I was taken care of very well after surgery and was put on antibiotics. Everything healed up quickly and my original surgery was also a success so I was happy.

bear78

When an inadvertent enterotomy occurs, do surgeons fix it right away? Are they required to tell the patient about it afterward?

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    • Enterotomy can literally refer to an incision in the large or small intestine.
      By: krishnacreations
      Enterotomy can literally refer to an incision in the large or small intestine.
    • The type of abdominal surgery performed depends on the needs of each patient.
      By: derege
      The type of abdominal surgery performed depends on the needs of each patient.
    • Surgeons may unintentionally create an enterotomy while performing abdominal surgery.
      By: staras
      Surgeons may unintentionally create an enterotomy while performing abdominal surgery.
    • An enterotomy may be performed during emergency abdominal surgery.
      By: redcarpett
      An enterotomy may be performed during emergency abdominal surgery.
    • An enterotomy may be performed laparoscopically.
      By: Cosmic
      An enterotomy may be performed laparoscopically.
    • If germs enter an incision site, it can lead to a dangerous infection.
      By: Photographee.eu
      If germs enter an incision site, it can lead to a dangerous infection.
    • Common abdominal surgeries include gall bladder removal.
      By: designua
      Common abdominal surgeries include gall bladder removal.