What is a J-pouch?

Written by: Mr Giovanni D. Tebala
Published: | Updated: 06/09/2019
Edited by: Cal Murphy

There are certain unpleasant conditions that mean the large intestine (colon) has to be removed. In this case, your surgeon may offer J-pouch surgery. What is this procedure? Expert colorectal surgeon Mr Giovanni Tebala has the answers.

What is J-pouch surgery?

J-pouch surgery is one of the techniques to re-establish intestinal function after the excision of the whole large bowel. The treatment of some conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and familial polyposis of the colon, may entail the removal of the whole large bowel, from the caecum to the rectum. In this case, the intestine can be reconnected directly, by attaching the small bowel to a very short rectal stump or directly to the anus.

Unfortunately, this would result in the need to empty the bowel very frequently, sometimes 20 or 30 times a day. Obviously, this is not compatible with a good quality of life. Another option would be to create a J-shaped pouch with the small bowel before attaching it to the anus. This would reduce the number of bowel movements to a more sustainable 5-7 times per day (different case by case).


What does the procedure involve?

The operation can be done by open surgery or by laparoscopy and can be performed at the same time of the colectomy (excision of the large bowel) or at a later stage. After the removal of the large bowel, the last part of the small bowel is arranged into a J-shaped pouch (although some surgeons prefer a wider W-shaped pouch), which is sewn directly to the tail end or to a small stump of rectum.

To protect this suture and to allow it to heal completely, we usually fashion a temporary diverting ileostomy, which is meant to bring the faeces out in a bag before they reach the newly formed pouch. After a few weeks, the ileostomy can be closed and the continuity of the bowel will be restored.


How does having a J-pouch affect your diet?

There is no “right” or “wrong” diet for people with a J-pouch. It is important to have a balanced diet, with all the right nutriments, namely proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, and electrolytes (salts). It is also important to have your meal in a relaxed and calm environment, to chew your food completely, and to allow time to digest before going back to work or any other activity.

Clearly, the absence of the large bowel and the direct join of the small bowel – with or without a pouch – to the anus will change your bowel habits and you may expect to pass loose stools several times a day. Living with a J-pouch is about learning to cope with the frequency of motions. Foods like chocolate, coffee, spicy food, nuts, alcohol, dairy products, beans, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts, and lentils can increase the frequency of stools and make them watery. You may wish to avoid them. Conversely, rice, pasta, pizza, and bread can reduce the frequency of motions and make the stools more solid. Spicy food, nuts and fruit juices should be avoided also because they can produce a burning feeling around the anus.


How to empty a J-pouch

Initially, when the stools are very watery, you may not feel the need to empty the pouch, or you may just feel some “pressure” in the pelvis, and may have some episodes of leakage or urgency. After a few weeks, as soon as the pouch dilates, the sphincters regain their tone and the stools become thicker, and you may get a more familiar feeling of fullness in your back passage and will be able to control your motion much better. Initially, the pouch will not empty completely and you will learn how to improve the emptying by squeezing your pelvic and abdominal muscles and by moving up and down on the toilet.


Visit Mr Tebala’s Top Doctors profile to book an appointment or for more information.

By Mr Giovanni D. Tebala

Mr Giovanni Domenico Tebala is a consultant colorectal, upper GI & laparoscopic surgeon based in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxford, whose areas of expertise are malignant and benign conditions of the upper and lower GI tract.

He also specialises in laparoscopic surgery, including keyhole colorectal surgery for bowel cancer and benign diseases (diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel diseases), keyhole surgery for gastro-oesophageal reflux and gallstones and keyhole surgery for hernias, and in proctology, including the STARR/PPH and Rafaelo procedures for the treatment of haemorrhoids and rectal prolapse.

Mr Tebala has an interest in upper and lower gastrointestinal endoscopy. He regularly sees patients with rectal bleeding, irregular bowel habits, weight loss, abdominal pain, surgical anaemia, gastro-oesophageal reflux and inguinal and abdominal hernias and with already established diagnosis of bowel cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, hiatus hernia, haemorrhoids and other gastrointestinal complaints. 

Mr Tebala graduated from the Catholic University of Rome in 1992 and completed his surgical training in Italy, UK, France, Germany and Austria by attending very busy tertiary centres and training units. He has been a consultant surgeon since 1999 and has also been a Visiting Professor of human anatomy and surgery for several years.

Mr Tebala has published many scientific articles on international medical journeys and has been in charge of the Italian edition of many textbooks originally published in English. Currently, he operates in the NHS and in the private sector.

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

This website uses our own and third-party Cookies to compile information with the aim of improving our services, to show you advertising related to your preferences as well analysing your browsing habits. You can change your settings HERE.