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A colostomy is a surgical procedure that brings the end of the large intestine (also known as the large bowel or the colon) through the front of the abdomen, most commonly on the left side and just below the navel, where a stoma (opening) is created allowing attachment of an ostomy pouch for collecting stool.
A stoma (Greek meaning "mouth") is what you see when you look at your ostomy. It is the actual opening of the bowel or intestine through the abdomen that allows for the passage of stool. It usually sits just below the navel but may be higher up depending on your surgery. The size of your stoma will diminish for up to two months after your surgery.
The color of your stoma will be pink or red, somewhat like the inside of your mouth. A little bit of normal bleeding may occur during the cleaning of your stoma. Stomas vary in size, shape, and location. They usually are about one inch around, but may be smaller or larger. Some protrude while some lay flatter.
There are two basic kinds of stomas, depending on which kind of surgery was performed:
Stomas do not cause pain and in fact sensation on the stoma is diminished. You will also not need to worry about the stoma getting infected as this is very rare. Stomas, by design, are intended to come in contact with stool; however, it is important to keep the surrounding skin clean to prevent skin complications.
The consistency of your stools may be pasty to solidly formed, depending on the exact location of your ostomy within the colon. The most common is a descending or sigmoid colostomy (involving the descending or sigmoid colon). With this type, you may find that you have the same bowel patterns and stool consistency as before your surgery.
It depends on your bowel patterns and habits, and also on where in the colon your ostomy is located. You may only have to empty every few days, once daily, or several times a day. You will need to empty gas just as if it were a stool. If your stool is solid and difficult to empty from the pouch, you may have to coat the inside of the pouch with cooking spray, mineral oil, or a commercial ostomy lubricant. You may want to consider a closed end pouch if you have no more than two stools a day since this is a shorter pouch that you remove and discard with each bowel movement.
This depends on the reason for the surgery and the actual surgery that was performed. If your anus and rectum are left intact, the colostomy is usually reversible and therefore does not need to be permanent.
If properly fitted and attached, ostomy pouches by design are odor-free so you should not detect any odor. If strong odor is a problem when emptying or changing your pouch, this is usually associated with gas, loose bowels, diarrhea, or the types of food being eaten.Things that may increase stool odor:
Everyone expels some gas (also called "flatus"). This is especially true during the early weeks and months after surgery. The following are ways to help control and deal with gas:Things that may increase gas:
There are pouches available that come with filters built-in that vent the gas without releasing odor. There are also commercially available air release vents that you can insert into your pouch. Contact us for further information regarding either of these options.
In the past, the process of irrigation (infusing water into the colon via the stoma) was used to regulate stool output by stimulating the colon to empty. With today's modern, disposable supplies irrigation for the most part is not needed. It may be necessary to irrigate if you experience frequent or severe constipation. You should first try to stimulate the colon naturally by drinking more water and increasing fiber. Check with your doctor or ostomy nurse if constipation persists despite these measures.