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What Happens During a Colostomy Procedure?

By M. DePietro
Updated Jan 30, 2024
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During a colostomy procedure, the surgeon will cut the end of the bowel and attach it to an opening made in the abdominal wall. The opening is referred to as a stoma. This allows the stool to exit the body through the stoma instead of the rectum.

General anesthesia will be administered during a colostomy procedure in order to prevent the patient from moving or feeling any pain. An incision is made in the abdomen and the area of the colon that needs to be removed is located. After the diseased portion of the colon is removed, one end of the colon is clamped off, and the other end is brought out through the cut made in the abdominal wall. This section of the colon is sewn to the skin at the abdominal wall opening.

A colostomy bag is secured to the stoma to catch the stool. During colostomy aftercare, a nurse will provide education to the patient on how to change the bag and care for the stoma. Education will include information on supplies needed and dietary changes that should be implemented.

Colostomy surgery may be done to treat colon cancer, an infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or an obstruction. It can be in place temporarily or permanently. Colostomy procedure benefits may include relief from an obstruction and reduced pain. A colostomy procedure also gives the colon time to heal from inflammation or infection.

Recovery varies, but most patients will be in the hospital for up to a week. Patients will resume eating gradually. Clear liquid is usually started after 24 hours. Depending on how liquids are tolerated, soft foods may be started a few days after colostomy surgery.

Some people may experience colostomy procedure complications, such as bleeding in the abdomen, damage to nearby organs, and infection. Complications at the stoma site may also develop, such as a narrowing of the stoma, skin irritation, and a peristomal hernia. During colostomy aftercare education, the nurse will explain potential complications and how to recognize them early.

Colostomy procedure side effects sometimes include emotional issues. Some people may become self-conscious about wearing a colostomy bag and have a decrease in self esteem. Keep in mind colostomy bags are small and usually can not be seen through clothing. Although it may take some time to adjust, it is often possible to resume almost all activities after a colostomy procedure. Joining a support group can help patients as they discuss physical and emotional issues after a colostomy.

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