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Ileostomy: Before Your Child's Surgery

Location of the colon, small intestine, and stoma, with closeup view of the stoma

What is an ileostomy?

During an ileostomy (say "ill-ee-AW-stuh-mee"), the doctor attaches the end of the small intestine to an opening in the skin. This allows waste to leave the body through a new opening called a stoma. A pouch attaches to the skin around the stoma. Stools collect in the pouch. The pouch must be emptied several times each day.

Your child may have this surgery if:

  • Your child's colon was removed because of a disease, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Your child has a mass in the lower colon that blocks stool from passing.

Your child may feel overwhelmed at first after getting the ileostomy. But you and your child will soon learn how to take care of it. Your care team, which may include nurses, a social worker, and a child psychologist, can help.

Your child will probably need to stay home from school for about 2 to 4 weeks. In time, your child should be able to fully take part in school, sports, and other activities.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Talk to your child about the surgery. Say that it will help your child's body get rid of waste. Healthcare providers know how to take care of children. They will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
  • You may need to take your child to the hospital the day before surgery to prepare your child's colon. Your child will get laxatives to completely empty the colon.
  • Plan for your child's recovery time. Your child may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.

The day before surgery

  • A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
  • Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when your child should stop eating and drinking. If you don't, the procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to have your child take any medicines on the day of the procedure, have your child take them with only a sip of water.
  • Follow the doctor's instructions about when your child should bathe or shower before the procedure. Do not apply lotion or deodorant.
  • Your child may brush their teeth. But tell your child not to swallow any toothpaste or water.
  • Do not let your child wear contact lenses. Bring your child's glasses or contact lens case.
  • Be sure your child has something that's a reminder of home. A special stuffed animal, toy, or blanket may be comforting. For an older child, it might be a book or music.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • A parent or legal guardian must accompany your child.
  • Your child will be kept comfortable and safe by the anesthesia provider. Your child will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take a few hours.
  • After surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. As your child wakes up, the recovery staff will monitor your child's condition. The doctor will talk to you about the surgery.
  • You will probably be able to go with your child to the hospital room after the surgery.
  • Your child may have a tube in the nose that goes into the stomach to drain fluid and acid. This is to rest your child's intestines for a few days.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare your child for surgery.
  • Your child becomes ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about your child having the surgery.

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