Originally published on: April 6th, 2017. Last modified on July 27th, 2021
What is a Colostomy?
A colostomy is created when your colon is cut and brought to the outside through the abdominal wall to create an artificial opening. Your faeces is then collected in a bag called a colostomy bag that is attached to the opening until the colon can heal or other corrective surgery can be done. In most cases, a colostomy is a temporary measure. However, in certain situations, a colostomy can be permanent.
Why would someone need a colostomy?
A colostomy may be performed for many reasons. A colostomy may be needed for someone who suffers from an inflammatory bowel disease.
If the muscles that control your bowel movements (sphincter muscles) are removed during surgery, you will be unable to control your bowels. You will need to have a colostomy so that your bowel contents can pass into a colostomy bag.
Sometimes, a colostomy is created to relieve a bowel obstruction or a bowel defect which is present at birth, or may be performed following an injury to the abdomen.
If you have to have a length of your bowel surgically removed, you may need to have a colostomy at the same time.
What will colostomy surgery involve?
A colostomy is performed by making a small cut through the wall of the abdomen to one side of the main incision (where the section of bowel has been removed from).The upper cut end of the bowel is brought out through this opening, and the edges are stitched to the edges of the opening. The lower cut end may be closed internally or may also be brought out.
The bowel contents pass out through the colostomy and are collected in a waterproof bag which is worn over the stoma. The bag is made of a special waterproof material, which is adhesive and sticks to the area without the need for adhesive tape.
If it is a temporary colostomy, the final stage of joining the bowel together will take place 8 to 12 weeks following the colostomy procedure.
Some colostomies are permanent because joining up the cut ends of the bowel is not an option.
How long will it take to recover?
After a colostomy operation, you may feel some abdominal pain. For a few days following your operation, you will be is fed intravenously until normal bowel function is resumed. A hospital stay of between 3 to 10 days is the standard and day to day life can usually start again within 1 to 3 weeks.
You will be in direct contact with a stoma nurse who is specially trained to assist people who have had a colostomy operation. The nurse can provide dietary advice to minimize bowel problems and will make sure that the stoma remains healthy.