A colostomy is surgery that makes an opening in the skin on the belly and connects the bowel (colon) to that opening. The opening is called a stoma. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent.
A colostomy may be done either as an open surgery or as a laparoscopic surgery. Open surgery is done through a large cut (incision) in the belly. Laparoscopic surgery is done through several small incisions in the belly. The doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube (laparoscope, or scope) and special surgical tools through the incisions. The doctor is able to use the scope to see your organs and do the surgery. The type of surgery you have depends on your health needs. With either type of surgery, the incisions will leave scars on your belly that will fade with time.
After the surgery, stool will pass out of your body through the stoma instead of your anus. A plastic bag is attached over the stoma to collect stool.
You may worry about what your life will be like after a colostomy. Many people who have colostomies lead active, normal lives. Colostomy bags are odour-proof. They don't show under clothes. Other people won't know that you have a colostomy unless you choose to tell them. An ostomy nurse can help you learn to care for your colostomy.
Most people go home 4 to 7 days after the surgery. You will probably need about 6 weeks to fully recover.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Having surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect and how to safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: March 27, 2018
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kenneth Bark MD - General Surgery, Colon and Rectal Surgery
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