An ileostomy refers to an opening in the belly that brings out a piece of the small intestine through a small incision in the abdominal wall. The surgeon performs ileostomy surgery when the patient’s large intestine is not working properly. The part of the bowel sticking out on the abdominal wall is known as a stoma.
An ileostomy can be permanent or temporary, depending on the underlying condition, its severity, and location. A permanent ileostomy requires a patient to commit to an ostomy care regimen for life. A temporary ileostomy, however, may remain there for 3-6 months to allow the diseased part of the bowel to rest and heal.
A person may need an ileostomy for one of several reasons. Some digestive problems that inflame the bowel remain untreatable. Those diseases include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and bowel cancer. An ileostomy as a part of cancer treatment is usually temporary, but the surgeon may opt to create a permanent ileostomy if the cancer is severe.
The outer lining of a stoma is much like the inside of the mouth. It is usually pink or red and soft to touch. It is warm and moist with a small amount of mucus covering its surface. After surgery, it looks swollen, but this swelling subsides over time. It settles to a permanent shape and size six to eight weeks after surgery. The shape of the stoma is round or oval. It usually protrudes a little. Some stomas remain flat with the abdominal skin.
A stoma doesn’t have any sphincter muscles like the anus. It means that you will not be able to control when to move your bowels. The stool will pass out of the stoma and fall into a plastic bag attached to the peristomal skin. With no nerve ending, a stoma doesn’t feel anything. It means that your stoma is not going to be a source of pain or sensation. There are, however, a lot of blood vessels in it, meaning that it is more vulnerable to bleed when you rub it with a cloth. So, seeing a small amount of blood on the surface of the stoma shouldn’t be a cause of concern.
The surgeon creates an ileostomy usually after the removal of the colon and rectum. This procedure is known as a colectomy. Sometimes, only a part of the colon and rectum are removed. That means when your bowel will not be able to function the same way as before after colectomy. That will necessitate an ileostomy.
What does an ileostomy do?
After the surgical removal or bypassing of the colon or rectum, you will no longer be able to expel bodily wastes through your anus. Your stoma will assume this job. Since there are no sphincter muscles to help you control the stool evacuation, you will have to wear an ostomy bag over the stoma to collect your bodily wastes. Wastes passing out of the stoma are usually liquid or pasty. It will depend much on what you eat or drink.
You will have to adhere to some lifestyle changes after ileostomy surgery. These changes are mostly related to your bowel movement habits. Other than that, you can eat anything you want and engage in your preferred physical activity regimen. To get the guidance, you can discuss your concerns with an ostomy care nurse.