An ostomy is a surgically created opening in your abdomen that allows stool to pass from your body without going through the lower part of your digestive system. This surgery is necessary when a diseased portion of your bowel cannot be successfully treated with medication. The most common reasons are colorectal cancer, bowel resection, chronic ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, familial (multiple) polyposis, bowel injury or a birth defect.
There are two types of ostomies for stool diversion. An ileostomy is an opening from your small intestines through your abdominal wall. A Colostomy is an opening from your large intestines through your abdominal wall.
The stoma is the portion of the intestines you see on your abdomen. The stoma looks red, swollen and moist. It usually protrudes about one-half to one inch above the skin of your abdomen. The swelling will decrease, and your stoma may become smaller over the six to eight weeks after surgery. You may notice that your stoma moves slightly. This movement is normal. The surface and edges of your stoma may bleed a little when you clean your stoma. This is normal and usually stops on its own.
There are no nerve endings in your stoma. Any discomfort you may feel is from the skin around the stoma. Call your WOC nurse if you have any questions or concerns about your stoma or skin.
The last part of your digestive system, your anus, has a muscle that controls when you pass stool. An ostomy does not have a muscle to control the flow of your stool. When your body is ready, your stool passes through the ostomy into a pouching system. You wear the pouching system on the outside of your abdomen.
The amount and thickness of your stool when it passes from your ostomy varies. If your ostomy is in the small intestines, as with an ileostomy, your stool will be loose. If your ostomy is in the large intestines, as with a colostomy, your stool can be loose to soft or formed.
A variety of pouching systems are available for ostomies. All are odor and water proof. Your WOC nurse will help you decide which type of pouching system is best for you.