An ostomy is a surgery that creates an opening in the abdomen, changing the way that waste exits your body. This procedure is used to treat various diseases of the urinary or digestive systems.
An ostomy is a surgical procedure that creates an opening in your abdominal wall. This opening goes from an area inside your body to the outside, usually through your abdominal muscles and skin. Ostomy surgery creates a new way for waste to leave your body. Ostomy procedures often remove fecal waste (poop), though they can involve urine (pee) as well.
A stoma is a general term referring to an opening created during an ostomy surgical procedure. A stoma may be made in different areas of your body depending on the goal of the surgery.
There are several different types of stomas. Some of the most common examples include:
Ostomies may be temporary or permanent depending on your unique healthcare needs. For example, if you’ve recently undergone colorectal surgery, your healthcare provider may perform a temporary ileostomy so that your colon has time to heal. However, if your entire rectum, colon or anus has been bypassed or removed, you will need a permanent ileostomy.
People with certain digestive or urinary issues may need ostomy surgery. For example, you may need an ostomy if you have:
Plenty of people have ostomy surgery. Approximately 1 in every 500 Americans lives with an ostomy.
Prior to your ostomy surgery, you’ll meet with your medical team to discuss the details of your procedure. During this appointment, your healthcare provider will determine the location of your stoma by talking with you about your lifestyle, typical clothing choices and personal preferences.
You’ll also learn how to properly care for your stoma. Additionally, your healthcare provider will demonstrate different types of ostomy appliances that can improve your quality of life.
Ostomy surgery is performed under general anesthesia to keep you comfortable. Your surgeon may create a long incision in your abdomen, or they may perform the procedure laparoscopically. Laparoscopy requires smaller incisions, uses a camera to look inside your body, and typically allows for faster recovery. Your healthcare provider can let you know which type of incision you’ll have.
The steps of ostomy surgery can vary depending on your specific needs. Here’s a look at the most common types of ostomy procedures:
Most people will need to stay in the hospital after ostomy surgery. Hospital stay varies by stoma and surgical approach but can be as short as a day or two. During this time, your medical team will keep a close eye on you to ensure that you’re healing properly. You may need an intravenous (IV) drip to keep you hydrated. Additionally, a catheter may be placed to drain urine.
In many situations, ostomy surgery is life-saving. In other situations, the procedure treats a wide range of digestive and urinary diseases and helps people significantly improve their quality of life.
As with any surgery, there can be complications after ostomy surgery. They can range from mild to severe and may include:
All in all, ostomy surgery recovery takes about eight weeks. Though you’ll need to limit your activity and take it easy, you should still get up and walk around as you’re able. Staying mobile will aid in healing, prevent infections and help your bowel work more quickly.
People who’ve had ostomy surgery will wear an ostomy bag or pouch. They must learn how to attach, empty and change the pouch. Most ostomy bags or pouching systems come with one or two pieces. The bag also comes with a barrier (which protects your stoma) and a disposable plastic pouch.
It depends on the type of pouch system you have. Most people will need to change their ostomy bag every three to seven days. However, some bags are designed to be changed daily. When changing your ostomy bag, be sure to:
In addition to keeping your ostomy stoma clean, be sure to examine it daily to ensure it looks normal. If you notice any changes in its size, color or shape, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
You can return to work or school after you’ve recovered from ostomy surgery and feel strong enough to maintain normal routines. You should also be comfortable emptying your ostomy bag without assistance.
If you’ve recently undergone ostomy surgery, it can be challenging to know which symptoms warrant a call to your healthcare provider. You should always trust your instincts if something doesn’t seem quite right. Call your healthcare provider right away if you notice:
Yes, in some cases. A temporary ostomy is performed when your bowel needs time to heal. Once your bowel is functioning properly again, your provider can perform stoma reversal surgery.
Yes. Showering or bathing without your ostomy pouch is perfectly safe.
Yes. Pouching systems are waterproof. When sealed properly, they can be worn anytime you’re in water.
The main difference is that a j-pouch involves creating a pouch inside the body while ostomy requires a pouch outside the body. In j-pouch surgery, the large intestine is removed and a portion of the lower intestine is used to create a small pouch. This pouch remains inside the body and is attached to the remaining rectum. People who have j-pouch surgery don't have a stoma. Instead, the waste collects in the pouch and is eliminated through the anus.
That being said, many people who undergo J-pouch surgery must have a temporary ileostomy while they heal from their initial procedure. Once your bowel heals, however, the stoma is removed and fecal waste is moved through the internal J pouch.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Living with an ostomy can be a major adjustment. You may be discouraged or worried about how your ostomy will affect your social life or how others will perceive you. It’s important to express these concerns to your healthcare provider and find a support group that will help you cope with your new situation.
Hundreds of thousands of people who’ve had ostomy surgery lead active, fulfilling lives. This procedure can help you regain your health and give you a new lease on life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/14/2022.
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