Surgery By The Numbers

Yesterday I met with my surgeon to discuss a laundry list of questions I started putting together as soon as he made the decisions that I need surgery and he would be my surgeon. My list consisted of twelve detailed questions with bullet points to cover all the possible combinations of what could happen during and after surgery; and how he might address all of those issues. He was very patient with me. With his team of two surgeons, he answered all my questions.

He gave me answers that included statistics about the probability about whether some things might or might not happen. For instance, there is a 10% chance that I might need a blood transfusion during surgery. That 10% depends on whether there are large blood vessels in or around the growth or other organs that could be injured in the process of removing the growth and cause significant bleeding. From my perspective, 10% is not a big number for probability of risk. The other statistical numbers he gave me were under 10%, and these low numbers gave me comfort.

He also talked numbers in terms of the size of organs. Did you know that your colon is about 5 feet or 60 inches long? He talked about how much of your colon and other organs you need to function normally. However, the one organ I’m most concerned about is my rectum. The rectum is about 18 centimetres or 7 inches long. According to my surgeon, you only need about half of your rectum for normal bodily functions. He does not believe that he will have to remove that much of my rectum. Therefore, I won’t need an ileostomy – temporary or permanent. Still, he did caution me again that imaging never tells the full story, so although he feels positive about what he will find we’ll have to wait and see what happens when he makes the incisions.

The last set of numbers he talked about related to my recovery. The typical recovery time required for someone who undergoes a resection – where everything goes well – is about six weeks. He will release me from the hospital after five nights if I am eating without any issues, there are no leaks in my resection, and my bowels are functioning normally. I will have my first post-surgical check-up three to four weeks after I leave the hospital. My surgeon will examine my wound to determine how well it’s healing. I will have staples in my incisions so he can remove them if I develop an infection. He will also use benchmarks like how I’m tolerating foods – solids vs. liquids – and how well my digestive system is functioning from top to bottom.

Surgery By The Numbers - My Hope

If everything goes well with the surgery, the rest will be left up to the pain specialists to manage my pain. My surgeon believes removing the growth will eliminate my pain. I hope he’s right. I know I have to be realistic based on what I’ve been living with for the past two years, but I hope his surgical skills combined with his optimism will lead to a full recovery of my health.


Brian McKnight – Win


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