A colostomy is a surgical procedure that brings out a part of the large intestine through an incision in the abdomen. The edge of the colon sticking out on the belly is known as a stoma. People with this bowel diversion have to wear an ostomy bag over their stomas to collect bodily wastes.
Colostomies are usually temporary. The purpose of a colostomy is usually to treat an underlying condition. When the treatment is complete, the patient will have to undergo another surgical procedure to get the colostomy reversed.
Reasons for a colostomy
A colostomy may be required to treat problems with the lower part of the bowel. In a majority of cases, a colostomy is created to divert the flow of feces away from the diseased section to give it some time to heal. In severe cases, the surgeon may choose the remove the diseased part entirely. The colostomy tends to be permanent in such cases.
Conditions that may lead a patient to require a colostomy may include the following.
- Crohn’s disease
- Colorectal cancer
- Colonic polyps
- Imperforate anus
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
Risks of a colostomy
Although a colostomy is a lifesaving procedure, it can result in some complications or risks. Some of those risks are as follows.
- A blockage in the colostomy
- Damage to other organs
- Internal bleeding
- Problems originating from scar tissues
- Stoma prolapse
- Wound breaking open
Preparing for a colostomy
Your doctor will take a blood sample, perform a physical test, and review your medical history before surgery. During every visit, you will have to tell your doctor about any surgeries you had before. You will also have to tell them about any current medications, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements.
You will have to stop eating and drinking anything 12 hours before surgery. You may have to take laxatives the night before surgery.
The colostomy procedure
The nurse will administer medications by placing an IV in your arm. You will also be given general anesthesia. It will be put you to sleep for a few hours. The surgical staff will perform surgery while you are asleep, so you will not feel any pain.
Depending on your case, the surgeon may perform open or laparoscopic surgery. Open surgery involves a larger incision that gives the surgeon access to the entire bowel. A laparoscopic procedure will involve several small incisions to allow for the insertion of surgical tools. It is usually a less invasive procedure as compared to open surgery.
During surgery, the surgeon will locate the part of the bowel where the stoma has to be placed. He will cut the bowel and bring its healthy end out through a cut in the belly. The edges of that part of the bowel will be sutured with the abdominal skin. The surgical staff will close the incision and suture it.
After the colostomy
You will have to remain hospitalized for a few days after surgery. During this time, your surgical staff and doctor will monitor your recovery. An ostomy care nurse will visit your ward to help you learn about the ostomy bag. They will also tell you how to take care of your stoma and the skin around it.