A colostomy is a surgical procedure that reroute the colon to an opening made in the abdomen. Waste drains from the colon, through a stoma into a collection bag worn near the stomach, which is emptied periodically. When injury or disease damages the colon, a colostomy allows passage of waste from the body.
For patients who suffer from debilitating gastrointestinal disease and bowel disorders, a colostomy can give back the ability to lead a normal lifestyle. Symptoms can vary from very mild to severe. In the most advanced cases, malnutrition and infection can occur. According to the Chrohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, as many as 25-40% of patients with Ulcerative Colitis and about 65% of patients with Chrohn’s Disease will eventually need surgery. Colostomy is the most common surgery for these disorders.
Several types of colostomy can be performed, depending on the location of the damaged intestinal tissue. They’re named according to the section of colon where they are located. The most common type of colostomy is the “sigmoid” or “descending” type, in which the stoma is located on the lower portion of the left side of the abdomen. A “transverse” colostomy is usually in the middle or right side of the abdomen. A “loop” colostomy is also located in the transverse colon, and has an opening for stool to pass, and a second stoma to discharge mucus. An “ascending” colostomy opens on the right side of the abdomen and is the least frequently used colostomy.
Colostomies can be performed to give the intestines time to heal, referred to as “bowel rest”. In cases of trauma, infection or cancer, a colostomy re-routes waste through the stoma, allowing the intestine to recover. When healing is complete, the colostomy is reversed and normal bowel function restored. For patients whose bowel function cannot be restored, a permanent colostomy is needed.
United Ostomy Association
Chrohn’s and Colitis Foundation
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