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Gastrointestinal surgery

Surgery for issues affecting the digestive tract

When you have stomach or intestinal issues, your health care provider may recommend gastrointestinal surgery. Gastrointestinal surgery can improve your quality of life, prevent other serious issues and help you get back to what matters most.

Find a gastrointestinal surgeon near you to schedule a consult.

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Treatment for gastrointestinal conditions at Allina Health

Gastrointestinal (GI) surgery treats issues impacting the digestive tract. Your digestive tract is connected by your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and rectum.

Common GI conditions include colorectal cancer, indigestion, inflammation in your digestive tract (diverticulitis), difficulty swallowing and gallbladder issues. We can also treat blockage in the small and large intestine and remove tumors. 

Your gastrointestinal surgery team

Our compassionate team will support and guide you with exceptional care from your gastrointestinal surgery consultation to surgery and through your recovery. They will keep you informed about your gastrointestinal surgery, hospital stay, recovery time and give you an easy-to-understand recovery plan.

Your GI surgery team may include:

  • A gastrointestinal surgeon. Your GI surgeon specializes in treating gastrointestinal issues with surgery.
  • Advanced practice providers work closely with your gastrointestinal surgery team to support all aspects of your health before, during and after your procedure.
  • Nursing and medical assistants will guide your care as you recover from GI surgery. They monitor your blood pressure, relay health concerns to your surgeon and support physical and dietary needs.
  • Registered nurses coordinate your daily activities and help with mobility treatments, personal care, pain management and discharge planning.
  • Anesthesiologists specialize in anesthesia and pain management. During your surgery, he or she will give you the type of anesthesia that is right for you and monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate.
  • A pharmacist. Our specialty pharmacy will supply the medicines ordered by your health care provider. He or she will make sure your medicines work well and are safe.
  • A dietitian. You may need to avoid certain foods after gastrointestinal surgery. A dietitian will guide and support your nutritional needs in partnership with your health care team.
  • An integrative health practitioner. An integrative health practitioner (if available at your hospital) can help you manage possible side effects before or after GI surgery. 

Minimally invasive gastrointestinal surgeries

A minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery allows your surgeon to operate with precision, using smaller incisions than open surgery. Your surgeon may recommend robotic surgery as an alternative to open surgery.

Minimally invasive surgeries include:

  • Colon and rectal surgery treats disorders of the large intestine, including the rectum, colon and anus.
  • Adrenalectomy. A urologic surgeon removes growths in the adrenal glands, the top of the kidneys that produce hormones your body needs to function.
  • Appendectomy. Removes the appendix.
  • Splenectomy. Partially or completely removes the spleen to treat certain cancers, infections, blood disorders or ruptures.
  • Pancreatic surgery can treat conditions affecting the pancreas, such as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and cystic fibrosis.
  • Cholecystectomy. A procedure to remove the gallbladder.
  • GERD surgery (foregut surgery) treats severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux.
  • Foregut surgery treats conditions of the upper GI tract, including the esophagus, stomach and the upper portion of the small intestines.
  • Heller myotomy is a type of GERD surgery to repair achalasia, a condition making it difficult for foods and liquids to move from the esophagus to the stomach.
  • Weight loss surgery. Also called bariatric surgery, weight loss surgery is a long-term treatment that helps you manage a healthy weight.

Types of open gastrointestinal procedures

Sometimes open surgery is a better option when your surgical site is inflamed, infected or scarred from past surgeries.

Open gastrointestinal surgeries include:

  • Abdominal surgery. A surgery treating abdominal disorders and abdomen pain.
  • Appendectomy. Removes the appendix.
  • Adrenalectomy. A surgery to remove one or both adrenal glands.
  • Nissen fundoplication. Strengthens the muscle between the esophagus and stomach to treat severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux.
  • Colectomy. Removes part of the colon.
  • Gastrectomy. Removes part of the stomach.
  • Small bowel Resection. Removes part of the small intestine.

Recovering from gastrointestinal surgery

Your care team will keep you comfortable and help manage your pain before, during and after GI surgery as you recover. Everyone experiences pain differently and your recovery timeline may vary based on the type of GI surgery. 

Health insurance coverage and cost

Contact your health insurance provider about medical coverage and get a price estimate before scheduling gastrointestinal surgery. You will pay any deductible amounts and any charges your policy doesn’t cover. 

Reviewed by: Eric M. Johnson, MD

First published: 3/16/2022
Last reviewed: 3/16/2022