What is an ostomy surgery?

It's natural to have a lot of questions before ostomy surgery, and it's also natural to feel emotional and nervous. Understanding the procedure and getting answers to your questions will be a good place to start. What does it mean to have an ostomy and to undergo ostomy surgery? How will your life change with an ostomy? We're here to help. Whether you’re preparing for ostomy surgery and don’t know what to expect, or you’re interested in learning more about ostomy care and products post-surgery, we’re here to help you answer your questions.

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What is ostomy surgery?

After ostomy surgery

Learn about Coloplast ostomy products

Interview with a nurse before ostomy surgery

What is ostomy surgery?

Ostomy surgery is a procedure by which a surgeon removes part of the small or large intestine, attaching the remaining part of the intestine to your abdominal wall. The result is a surgically created opening called a stoma that allows feces to leave the body, or in the case of a urostomy, to drain urine. Ostomy surgery can be the result of cancer, diseases or trauma affecting the digestive or urinary systems, an ostomy can be temporary or permanent. When a stoma is temporary, it means that it can be closed or reversed. Temporary stomas usually remain for 3-6 months, allowing your body to heal, but it may become permanent for about 20% to 50% of people (Carmel, Jane E., Ostomy Management). The most common types of ostomy surgery include ileostomy, colostomy, and urostomy. Below, we'll explain the difference between these types of ostomies and the ostomy procedures.

What is a colostomy?

Colostomy surgery involves bringing your colon (large intestine) to the surface of your abdomen to form a stoma. A colostomy is usually created on the left side of your abdomen. Stool from this part of the intestine is more solid and is collected with an ostomy pouch. A colostomy can either be temporary or permanent depending on the reason for surgery or the severity of the illness.

What is an ileostomy?

In the surgical procedure of creating an ileostomy, a surgeon brings a part of your small intestine called the ileum (also known as the small bowel) to your abdominal wall to form a stoma. This part of your small intestine is located on the right side of your abdomen, and an ileostomy will usually be located on your right side too. The output from an ileostomy ranges from liquid to pasty, depending on what part of your small intestine was utilized to create your stoma. As with every other ostomy, the output will need to be collected in a pouching system.

An ileostomy may also be temporary or permanent depending on the reason for the surgery. This type of ostomy is typically needed in cases where the large intestine is injured or diseased. After surgery, it will take around 1 to 3 days for the ileostomy to function properly.

What is a urostomy?

The purpose of a urostomy is to provide an outlet for urine to exit the body since the bladder is removed. A short section of your small bowel is removed from the digestive tract and used to create an ostomy for urine to exit the body. The tubes, or ureters, that carry urine to your bladder are then routed to your ostomy. A urostomy is typically the solution if you have a diseased or injured bladder, or if your bladder isn't functioning. A urinary ostomy is usually permanent.

Learn more about stomas

In our article 'What is a stoma?', you'll find much more information on what a stoma is, what it looks and feels like as well as general information about your digestive system, which is good to know before ostomy surgery.

After ostomy surgery

Ostomy support group meeting

The period after surgery can be filled with a lot of emotion, adjusting to your new routines and getting back to normal. You may also feel anxious about whether your stoma is functioning properly, how to get back to work and your social life, and how to adapt your diet. That's completely okay and most people will feel this way after a life-altering procedure. Most people need extra emotional support during this time, and joining a support group can be a good idea.

In this section, we address product solutions and ostomy pouches, and you’ll find helpful tips on keeping your skin healthy and avoid skin irritation, how to deal with ostomy pouch problems and other information that you may find useful for after ostomy surgery. We're also providing useful links to various patient organizations so you can get the support you need, when settling into life with an ostomy.

The first weeks after ostomy surgery

After ostomy surgery, you will spend some time in the hospital. Your ostomy nurse will provide you with the products that you need in the beginning and help you to settle into a good routine that you can continue when you're back home. Your body will need some time to heal after ostomy surgery. This is perfectly normal, and the time needed will vary from person to person. Your stoma will change in the first weeks following the surgical procedure, in terms of both size and output. You may lose or gain weight in these weeks, which can also cause your stoma and the area around it to change.

In the weeks and months following your ostomy surgery, it's important to check your stoma often to make sure that it's healthy. Your stoma will change a lot in the beginning; once the swelling from the surgery starts to diminish, the size and shape of your stoma will change. A healthy stoma is:

  • Red or pink

  • Moist

  • Warm to the touch

A stoma doesn't have any nerve endings that register touch, so you won't feel anything when you touch it. You also don't need to wear gloves when you're touching the stoma or the area around it. However, it is important that you wash your hands before and after caring for your stoma. It is also important that you take good care of your skin when you're caring for your stoma. The skin around your stoma should look the same as the rest of the skin on your abdomen, although it can be slightly red right after you remove your barrier. The most important thing is to make sure that the skin doesn't look discolored or broken. There shouldn't be any pain, itching, or burning sensation on the skin around your stoma, either.

If any complications arise with your stoma after your ostomy surgery, it's important that you reach out to your doctor or ostomy nurse immediately.

Living with an ostomy

In general, your ostomy shouldn't keep you from working, socializing, playing sports, traveling or other hobbies. People with ostomies are completely capable of living fulfilling lives and return to normal activities after surgery. Your general state of health – physically as well as mentally – will play a big role in determining your quality of life as you move forward.

Get started with a pouching system

Ostomy pouches - Coloplast products

Having a stoma means you have no control over when you defecate or, in the case of a urostomy, when you urinate. This means that you always need to wear an ostomy pouch to collect your output. The most important thing to know is that your ostomy pouch should have a snug fit around your stoma. A snug fit helps prevent leakage and skin irritation.

Which ostomy pouch you use is a personal choice. Your ostomy nurse or doctor will provide you with pouches to get you off to a good start when you are discharged from the hospital. But as your body changes within the first couple of months, you may need to look into different pouching systems that better fit your needs. If you are experiencing complications with leakage, your skin or your product in general, always reach out to your doctor or ostomy nurse.

What is the best product solution for my body type?

After a stoma operation, your body profile may change for a number of reasons. These may include:

  • Weight gain or loss as you recover from the illness that caused the operation

  • Folds or scarring of the skin around your stoma

  • Hernia development related to your stoma

If your body profile changes, it’s important that you make sure your ostomy pouch still fits snugly to your abdomen. A tight seal between the appliance and your skin is essential for healthy skin around the stoma. If, for example, the area around your stoma changes from being regular to being more inwards, it may be time to switch to a convex appliance. You may also need to use additional accessories.

It is always a good idea to consult with your ostomy nurse about how your pouch fits and which accessories might work for you. Our online self-assessment tool, BodyCheck, will help you figure out your current body profile and whether your body has changed significantly. You will find suggestions for the right appliances and accessories to customize your fit. At Coloplast, we offer ostomy pouches and supporting products specific to your body shape for a better fit.

View pouching product solutions and request free samples

Keeping your skin healthy

Caring for your skin is an important part of living with an ostomy. In order for your pouching system to adhere properly, it is very important to keep the skin around your stoma healthy. The right accessories can help ensure that your pouch is adequately adhered to your abdomen to reduce risk of leakage and skin irritation. When the pouch is attached correctly, there is no risk of odor from your ostomy pouching system. Before you leave the hospital, you will be trained in how to change and empty your ostomy pouching system, and how to take care of your skin.

View our Brava Accessories- a range of ostomy accessories designed to reduce leakage and take care of your skin.

What can I eat and drink after ostomy surgery?

It's only natural to feel like your appetite has decreased after surgery. Your body is trying to heal and cope with the changes, and this may affect your eating habits. However, it's still important that you eat well and regularly. Studies show that your digestive system and bowel will return to normal quicker if you eat real food and a varied diet to support your gut bacteria. You may feel more comfortable if you start out carefully and limit your diet to easily digestible and protein rich foods. That may be bread and light carbs such as rice and pasta, chicken, turkey, fish, and steamed or boiled vegetables. Your ostomy nurse, surgeon or physician will advise if you need to take special precautions after surgery, both when you leave the hospital but also during regular check-ins. After a while, you can slowly reintroduce foods into your daily life and test your reaction, i.e. to spicy foods. red meat etc.

How do I talk about my stoma?

Women discussing their ostomy

Nothing is more helpful than someone who really understands what you are going through. You are certainly not alone – the number of people with ostomies worldwide is 1.9 million. Your local patient organization is one way of meeting peers to get handy tips, inspiration and personal support.

Read our article on talking about your stoma to find helpful advice on starting a conversation about your ostomy.

Traveling with an ostomy

Travelling with an ostomy by plane

We understand that traveling with an ostomy can have its challenges but don't let that hold you back! During times when you travel, you may have to leave your regular routine behind, which means you might need to make some extra preparations to help keep surprises at a minimum so you can enjoy your journey and your stay!

View our travel resources to ensure a smooth trip

Are you still looking for the right ostomy pouch?

With the right guidance and products, you should be able to do the things you’ve always done after you have gone through ostomy surgery.

Coloplast’s range of innovative ostomy products are designed to help prevent leakage and skin issues. We understand that no two bodies are the same, that’s why our SenSura® Mio ostomy pouching systems are designed with BodyFit Technology to provide a secure fit based on stoma, body profile and output type. If you'd like help finding the pouching system that is best for you, please contact us at 1-877-858-2656.

View our full range of ostomy products and request a sample

Ostomy Self-Assessment Tools

Ostomy information on the internet

If you experience ostomy leakage or sore skin around your stoma, try one of our Ostomy Self-Assessment Tools! We have 3 self-assessment tools designed to help guide you in finding the ostomy solution that is best for you and your body.

Try our Ostomy Self-Assessment Tools

Living well with an ostomy

In this “Living Well” video, you'll hear directly from people who are living with an ostomy - as well as a Wound Ostomy Continence (WOC) Nurse. They share their personal stories and some tricks and tips on life after ostomy surgery. Topics covered include different types of ostomy surgeries, pouching systems, getting back to your normal activities, diet, intimacy and more. This video can be a helpful resource both before ostomy surgery and after ostomy surgery, as well as for family members and caregivers. Mira este video en español

Join Coloplast Care!

Living a happy life after ostomy surgery

Our Care program offers straightforward advice, personalized support and inspiration. Whether you are expecting to go through ostomy surgery in the future, or have years of experience managing your ostomy, Coloplast Care is available when you need it. Through online educational articles or by phone with our dedicated team of advisors and specialists, we're here to extend the care of your ostomy nurse to help you live a better life, so you can be you!

Learn more and enroll for free today!

Questions about ostomy care? We're here to help.

Questions about our products or living with a ostomy? Contact us today at +1-877-858-2656. Hablamos español!


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