There are three types of surgeries which can result in a stoma. A stoma is an opening from the patient’s urinary or digestive system which has been brought to the surface of the abdomen. These types of surgeries are usually done when a part of the bowel or urinary system has been damaged or diseased. Sometimes ostomy surgeries are done to complement another necessary surgery, in order to allow the remaining part of the bowel to heal and rest after part of it has been removed. Different types of ostomies are designated depending on the part of the digestive tract or urinary system they involve. Ileostomies, for example, involve the ileum, while urostomies are related to the urinary tract.

What does the term “colostomy” mean?

Colostomies refer to ostomy surgeries which involve the colon, specifically. These surgeries occur when part of the large bowel or the digestive system below it requires removal. Part of the colon is then attached to the outer surface of the patient’s abdomen. This exit is the stoma.

What types of colostomy surgery are there?

There are two basic types of surgery which are both considered to be colostomies: end colostomy and loop colostomies. End colostomies are either temporary or permanent, depending on what parts of the intestine remain below the stoma, and how practical reattachment is. End colostomies which are intended to be temporary are usually carried out when that remaining part of the intestine requires healing or rest prior to surgical reattachment. Sometimes this is, unfortunately, too risky to undertake; in other cases, there may simply not be enough of the intestine remaining below that point. If so, the end colostomy will be permanent.

Loop colostomies are almost always intended to be temporary, and are carried out to preserve both ends of the remaining intestine and to allow the patient to safely past waste in an emergency or under acute circumstances. However, it can also be undertaken when another surgical join in the bowel requires protection, or in preparation for other surgeries.

Life After a Colostomy

Whether temporary or permanent, a colostomy is a big change in the life of the ostomy patient. In nearly all cases, those who have undergone colostomies will have to wear a bag, sometimes called a pouch, in order to collect waste. That’s because the person will not have conscious control over the stoma. Waste expelled from the large intestine is usually solid. The bag or pouch has to be changed several times a day. For patients whose stomas are located near the bottom of the bowel, irrigation may be an option. Irrigation does not require them to buy colostomy bags, but does require that the patient spend some time each day having the bowel flushed with water by way of a catheter inserted through the stoma. However, this is only possible in cases where the stoma is located in the sigmoid or descending colon and not even always under those circumstances. Most patients will need to wear a pouch.