Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find the answers to many of your questions about colorectal surgery. Learn how it works, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

To see how the surgery is done, view our procedure animation below. For personal insights, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, surgery and recovery.

Cost indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for colorectal surgery, and learn how your choice of doctor and hospital affect that cost. 


Rectum removal costs Colon removal costs

Learn about colorectal surgery

This short animation shows how an unhealthy section of colon is removed and the ends are joined together.

The basics

What is a colorectal surgery?

Also known as ‘major bowel surgery’, colorectal surgery is an umbrella term for a number of operations involving the colon (large bowel) and rectum (the end of the large bowel). Surgery often involves removing all or part of the colon.

Sometimes after major surgery the bowel is brought to the surface and a stoma (artificial opening in the abdomen) is created, allowing for faeces to be passed into a bag adhered to the skin. This is called a colostomy if the colon is involved, and an ileostomy if the ileum (small bowel) is used. This may be a temporary measure (which can be reversed when the bowel has recovered), or it may need to be permanent.

Why is it done?

It’s usually performed to treat diseases such as cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and, in some cases, diverticulitis. Sometimes major colorectal surgery is needed to treat an acute condition such as a bowel obstruction (blockage) or haemorrhage (uncontrolled bleeding).

The reasons for performing surgery and the outcome – whether the disease is cured or the aim is symptom relief – depends on the individual condition.

There are different types of operation that can be classified as colorectal surgery:

  • Hemicolectomy – approximately half the colon is removed (left or right)
  • Total colectomy – complete removal of the colon
  • Low anterior resection – removal of the lower part of the colon and the top part of the rectum

Where is it done?

Major colorectal surgery is done in an overnight hospital. The length of hospital stay varies – the average is 10 days.

How long does it take?

It varies depending on the nature and extent of the surgery, but is likely to be 2-4 hours.

Who is involved?

  • Your surgeon
  • Assistant surgeon
  • Anaesthetist 
  • Nurses
  • Physiotherapist
  • Radiologist
  • Pathologist

The details

Preparing for surgery

Choosing a specialist

How to find a surgeon who specialises in your procedure.
Learn more

Questions for your specialist

What you should be asking before going ahead with surgery.
Learn more

Preparing for your procedure

Pre-operative tests and what to take to hospital.
Learn more

Surgery and aftercare

Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your procedure.
Learn more

Your procedure

What happens in the operating theatre.
Learn more


Your aftercare and recovery.
Learn more

Patient experiences

HCF members who've had colorectal surgery talk about their preparation, hospital stay and recovery.
View videos

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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.