Gastrectomy involves removing part of, or the entire stomach. This may be done for benign conditions, conditions with potential to become cancers, or cancers. Depending on the amount of stomach removed and the part of the stomach affected, gastrectomy can range from relatively minor, with little or no long term effects to the patient, to quite major with some risks.

What happens during the procedure?

Gastrectomy surgery involves removing part (partial or subtotal gastrectomy) or all of the stomach (total gastrectomy) and the surrounding lymph nodes, then rejoining the intestine onto the stomach or esophagus. This is traditionally done through a large open cut in the abdomen, but in some patients, can be done laparoscopically or robotically, with a more rapid recovery. On average, patients stay in hospital about 1 week. Gastrointestinal side effects are common afterwards but most patient will have good gut function long term.

Potential complications and risks

Gastrectomy is a major operation and although it is safe, there are risks which your surgeon will discuss with you. These include

  • Bleeding
  • Leak from the joins created after removal of the stomach (anastomotic leak)
  • Reflux
  • Digestive troubles (e.g. bloating or trouble with certain foods)
  • Nutritional consequences (e.g. Vit B12 deficiency which needs lifelong replacement)
  • As well as general risks of surgery such as wound infections and blood clots in the legs (deep venous thrombosis) that can travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism)

Can I live without a stomach?

Yes, quite successfully. Most patients have their small bowel adapt to increase its capacity and can eat a regular diet after they have fully recovered. In practice, people often find that certain foods are less agreeable and they tend to eat small meals frequently rather than large meals. Living without a stomach also means that careful attention is paid to vitamins and patients often supplements for this.

The content is to be used as a guide only. Always consult you specialist to determine information relevant to you and your circumstances.