A colostomy is a surgical procedure to divert one end of the large intestine (colon) through an opening in the abdominal wall (tummy).
The end of the bowel is called a stoma. A pouch is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that usually pass through the colon and out of the body through the rectum and anus (back passage).
A colostomy can be permanent or temporary.
It's estimated that around 6,400 permanent colostomies are carried out each year in the UK.
A colostomy may be used when there's a problem with an area of the colon. The colostomy diverts digestive waste away from the affected area, to give it a chance to heal.
In other cases, a colostomy is formed after a section of the colon has been removed and the bowel can't be joined back together. This may only be temporary, with a further operation to remove the colostomy at a later date, or it may be permanent.
A colostomy may be used to treat the following conditions:
There are two main ways a colostomy can be formed:
Loop colostomies tend to be temporary and require a further operation at a later date to reverse the procedure. It's also possible to reverse an end colostomy, but this is less common. You'll usually have to stay in hospital for 3-10 days after a colostomy or colostomy reversal.
A similar procedure, known as an ileostomy, is sometimes used as an alternative to a colostomy. This involves creating a stoma by diverting the small intestine instead of the large intestine.
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It's natural to be concerned that your day-to-day activities will be restricted and that others will notice you're wearing a colostomy bag.
However, modern colostomy equipment is discreet and secure, and there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to do the activities you enjoyed before, without experiencing the symptoms that made the colostomy necessary in the first place.
Adjusting to life with a colostomy can be challenging, but most people become accustomed to it over time.
You'll usually see a specialist stoma nurse before and after having a colostomy, although you may not be able to see them before the procedure if it's carried out in an emergency. Specialist stoma nurses can offer support and advice to help you adapt to life with a colostomy.
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