Is a Colostomy?
A colostomy is a surgical procedure that brings one end of the
large intestine out through the abdominal wall. During this procedure, one end
of the colon is diverted through an incision in the abdominal wall to create a
stoma. A stoma is the opening in the skin where a pouch for collecting feces is
attached. People with temporary or long-term colostomies have pouches attached
to their sides where feces collect and can be easily disposed of.
Colostomies aren’t always permanent, especially in children with
A colostomy can be the result of one of several procedures to
correct problems with the lower digestive tract. Other “ostomies” include
ileostomy and urostomy. An ileostomy is a diversion of the bottom of the small
intestine. A urostomy is a diversion of the tubes that carry urine out of the
A colostomy may also be referred to as bowel diversion therapy.
a Colostomy Is Performed
Colostomies are performed because of problems with the lower
bowel. Some problems can be corrected by temporarily diverting stool away from
the bowel. This is when temporary colostomies are used to keep stool out of the
If the colon becomes diseased, as in the case of colon cancer,
permanent colostomies are performed and the colon may be removed completely.
Conditions in which you may need a permanent colostomy include:
- a blockage
- an injury
- Crohn’s disease, which is an autoimmune form of
inflammatory bowel disease
- colorectal cancer
- colonic polyps, which is extra tissue growing
inside the colon that may be cancer or may turn into cancer
- diverticulitis, which occurs when small pouches
in your digestive system, called diverticula, become infected or inflamed
- imperforate anus or other birth defects
- irritable bowel syndrome, which is a condition
affecting the colon that causes diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and pain in
the abdominal area
- ulcerative colitis, which is an inflammatory
bowel disease that causes the long-term inflammation of the digestive tract
of a Colostomy
A colostomy is a major surgery. As with any surgery, there are
risks of allergic reactions to anesthesia and excessive bleeding.
Colostomy also carries these other risks:
- a blockage of the colostomy
- damage to other organs
- a hernia, which occurs when an internal organ
pushes through a weak area of muscle
- an infection
- internal bleeding
- problems from scar tissue
- a prolapse of the colostomy
- a wound breaking open
Your doctor can best explain your personal risks, the risks of
the surgery, the potential for complications, and the advantages of the
to Prepare for a Colostomy
Before surgery, your doctor will take blood samples, perform a
physical examination, and review your complete medical history. During these
visits, tell your doctor about any prior surgeries you’ve had and any
medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter medicines and
Your doctor will likely ask you to fast for at least 12 hours
before surgery. You may also be given a laxative or an enema to take the night
before the surgery to help cleanse your bowels.
You should prepare to stay in the hospital for three to seven
days. This includes packing the right necessities, arranging care for your
children, pets, or home, and taking the appropriate amount of time off of work.
a Colostomy Is Performed
You’ll change into a hospital gown before surgery. A nurse will
place intravenous access, or an IV, in your arm. This allows the hospital staff
to give you fluids and medications easily, and it’s also how you’ll be given
your general anesthesia. This will put you into a deep, painless sleep during
While you’re asleep, the hospital staff will wheel you into the
operating room for your colostomy. When you’ve been cleaned and prepared, your
surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen. This incision may be large, or it
may be a series of smaller incisions. Smaller incisions are used for a
laparoscopy. This type of surgery involves using small tools and a camera that’s
inserted into an incision. The camera will be used to guide your doctor during
During the procedure, your doctor will locate the ideal part of
the large intestine for the opening, or stoma. Your doctor will cut the
intestine in the appropriate area and bring it through your abdominal wall.
Your doctor will surgically implant a ring onto your abdominal
wall. This ring will hold the end of the intestine in place. This ring may be
permanent, or it may be placed temporarily to help your skin heal around your
After everything is in place, your doctor will close your wound
with stitches and you’ll be brought into a recovery room. During that time, the
staff will wait for you to wake up and they’ll watch your vital signs to ensure
everything goes smoothly.
Recovery in the hospital involves being slowly reintroduced to
liquids and foods to ensure there are no digestive problems. On the first day,
you’ll most likely be given only ice chips to ease your thirst. Afterward,
you’ll be given clear liquids and eventually soft foods.
You’ll also be taught how to use colostomy bags correctly. A
colostomy bag is where your feces will collect while you have your colostomy.
Hospital staff will also instruct you on your diet, activity level, and more.
It’s important to follow these instructions.
You’ll have follow-up appointments with your doctor to check on your
condition and the colostomy.