September 13, 2011

47 staples

My ultra low anterior resection was an 'open surgery' because the surgeons needed a good look and lots of light; a better look and more light than if it had been laparoscopic.

Laparoscopic versions of my surgery leave you with four small holes and a small cut near the pubic bone where the actual tumour and colon is pulled out.

My open surgery left me with a 33 cm incision and 47 staples. Oh, and I lost my belly button because the incision went right through it, rendering any 'button' unrecognisable.

Staples are usually made of titanium mixed with a bit of nickel.

Circular stapler
Staples were also used inside me to join healthy colon and rectum back together. Joining two tunnels back together is slightly tricky and was done by inserting a circular stapler up my bot bot. Circular staplers consist of two parts - the anvil and shaft and look like a weapon from Star Trek.

Joining colon and rectum is as easy as 1, 2, 3

1. Put anvil in colon, make a J pouch out of healthy colon and then poke the anvil out.

2. Poke the shaft of the stapler through the rectum (entering the rectum via the anus) and attach to anvil.

3. Start stapling. A knife in the stapler cuts away excess tissue and staples at the same time so you are left with an open and clean tunnel.

My J pouch (for holding poo) and colo-anal connection
Looking for leaks

Once the anvil and shaft are pulled out (via the same way it went in: the bot bot) the new join is tested for leaks. This is done in the same way you test a bicycle tyre for leaks - water and air. The area outside the join is filled with fluid and gas is pumped into the colo-rectum. Bubbles coming out of the colon mean a small hole is present.

The join is also tested by injecting dye inside the colon (again via the bot bot) and watching for leaks outside the colon.

Unlike the 47 staples used to close my abdomen, the staples inside my colon will stay there for the rest of my life. I can't wait for my next x-ray.

This may or may not be my surgeon


  1. Thinking about you Ben- just caught up on your blog while at work. So I've worked out that I get paid to read what you write. This makes you verrry important. I think I've learned more about the body from your blog than in 6 years as an RN and 5 becoming one. I keep thinking..
    " why didnt he become a doctor?" Or you could at least teach patients on a doctor's behalf. Good luck- busy week for you ahead- kicking ass and taking names.

  2. Hi Ben,

    I came across your blog when a friend on Facebook linked to it. I couldn't help myself but post a comment.

    My father was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer at age 39 (so "young" too), in the mid-90s. His cancer was detected early after referral for a colonoscopy by an observant GP. He is one of the positive statistics you have talked about - he is well and healthy now, though still undergoes regular review.

    Good luck with your treatment.


  3. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your Dad's story - it is excellent to hear from survivors and their relatives!


  4. Hi Ben....

    I have learned so much through your blog!
    you are an amzing story teller and educating us along the way! thank you for sharing!