In medicine, an omentectomy is a procedure in which part or all of the abdominal lining is removed. The tissue that is removed is called the omentum. This fatty organ is made up of an area of lining, or peritoneum, which encases the stomach and other abdominal organs. The omentum was long considered to perform no important functions, but biologists now believe that it may have an important role to play in the maintenance of the internal physiological environment.
An omentectomy procedure may involve the complete removal of the omentum, in which case it is called a total or supracolic omentectomy. A partial omentectomy involves the removal of only a proportion of the omentum. Surgical removal of the omentum may be performed by cutting an incision in the abdomen, or alternatively via a small opening, in which case it is called a laparoscopic omentectomy.
In cases of ovarian, intestinal, or endometrial cancer, the omentum may be performed if cancerous cells have migrated into it. In these cases, the removal is likely to be carried out during surgery performed to remove the primary tumor. The removal of the omentum may also reduce the chances of cancer spreading from nearby organs to the stomach, so in some cases the procedure may be performed as a precautionary measure, even if the omentum is not yet harboring detectable cancerous cells.
In some cases, omentectomies may be performed on patients suffering from diabetes. This procedure is most often performed when the patient is obese. Removal of the omentum may improve the patient’s long-term insulin resistance. While the function of the omentum is not completely understood by biologists, it seems to play a significant role in glucose and fatty acid metabolism, which is likely to be the reason that it is implicated in diabetes.
The removal of the omentum itself is usually considered a relatively safe procedure. Documented side effects tend to be rare and minor. When performed along with other surgery, this procedure is often regarded as the safest part. Complications arising after the surgery are more frequently ascribed to the trauma of the surgery itself, rather than as a direct result of the removal of the omentum. In spite of this general view, some doctors believe that removal of the omentum is not something to be undertaken lightly, as the long-term impact of an omentectomy on a patient is not fully understood, and the procedure may have wide-ranging physiological implications.