Gastrointestinal Surgery | GI Surgery

Healthcare professionals at MaineHealth provide expert, multidisciplinary care for patients who need gastrointestinal surgery. MaineHealth has highly skilled surgeons who offer experience, compassionate care and the latest procedures for treating diseases of the digestive system. US News and World Report has named MMC high performing in the specialty of GI Surgery.

What is the gastrointestinal tract?

The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The liver, pancreas and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system. The digestive system helps the body digest food.

What is gastrointestinal surgery?

Gastrointestinal surgery includes a variety of surgical techniques to diagnose and treat GI disorders.

Surgery can be done on both the upper and lower GI tracts, depending on the problem or disease.

Some disorders that GI surgery treats include:

  • Esophageal disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • GI bleeding
  • Pancreaticobiliary disorders
  • Liver disorders
  • Colorectal cancer

Gastrointestinal surgery types

The following are some examples of gastrointestinal surgeries that treat GI disorders and diseases:

  • Colon cancer surgery
  • Gallbladder cancer surgery
  • Esophageal cancer surgery
  • Liver disease surgery
  • Pancreatic cancer surgery


Colon cancer surgery may involve the following:

  • Local excision: Removal of cancer in its early stage without cutting through the abdominal wall. A doctor may put a tube with a cutting tool through the rectum into the colon and cut the cancer out.
  • Colectomy/anastomosis: If the cancer is larger, a partial colectomy (removing the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it) will be performed. The doctor may then perform an anastomosis, which involves sewing the healthy parts of the colon together. Or, the doctor may create an ileostomy or colostomy, which is a connection from the intestine to outside the abdomen so stool can be collected in a bag.  Sometimes a patient needs a colostomy or ileostomy temporarily, and the ends of the intestine are reconnected at a later time.

Esophageal cancer surgery may include the following:

  • Esophagectomy:  Removal of part of the esophagus. The remaining healthy part of the esophagus is connected to the stomach so the patient can still swallow.

 Gallbladder cancer surgery may involve one of the following procedures:

  • Cholecystectomy:  Surgery to remove the gallbladder and some of the tissues around it. Nearby lymph nodes may be removed
  • Surgical biliary bypass: If the tumor is blocking the small intestine and bile is building up in the gallbladder, the gallbladder or bile duct will be cut and sewn to the small intestine to create a new pathway around the blocked area.
  • Endoscopic stent placement: If the tumor is blocking the bile duct, surgery may be done to put in a stent, a thin, flexible tube, to drain bile that has built up in the area.
  • Percutaneous transhepatic biliary drainage: A procedure done to drain bile when there is a blockage and endoscopic stent placement is not possible.

 Liver disease surgery can include the following procedures:

  • Partial hepatectomy: The removal of part of the liver where cancer is found.
  • Liver transplant: The entire liver is removed and replaced with a new liver from a healthy donor.
  • Ablation:  A procedure that removes or destroys cancerous tissue. Ablation can be done surgically or non-surgically. It usually uses needles or instruments to reach the tumor through the skin and kill cancer cells.

There are different types of pancreatic cancer surgery procedures. They may include the following:

  • Whipple procedure: A surgical procedure in which the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, and the bile duct are removed. Enough of the pancreas is left to produce digestive juices and insulin.
  • Total pancreatectomy: This operation removes the whole pancreas, part of the stomach, part of the small intestine, the common bile duct, the gallbladder, the spleen, and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Distal pancreatectomy: The body and the tail of the pancreas and usually the spleen are removed.
  • Gastric bypass: If the tumor is blocking the flow of food from the stomach, the stomach may be sewn directly to the small intestine so the patient can continue to eat normally.

Care at Home

MaineHealth Care at Home offers home based healthcare services seven days a week, with 24-hour on-call nursing service.