What is a colostomy?
A colostomy is a surgical procedure during which the large intestine or colon (1) is cut and brought to the surface of the abdomen (2). A colostomy can be formed from any part of the colon depending on the underlying condition but most commonly they are formed from the descending colon and will appear on the left side of the abdomen. The colostomy may be temporary or permanent.
The most common diseases or conditions resulting in colostomies are rectal cancer, diverticular disease, trauma and congenital abnormalities such as Hirschsprung’s disease. A colostomy is the most commonly formed stoma accounting for about 53% of all newly formed stomas.
Waste from a colostomy
The function of the colon is to absorb water and salts. The longer the faeces are in the colon the more water is absorbed and the drier the faeces will become. Waste material from stomas formed in the descending colon will generally be well formed and a closed stoma bag will be worn and changed once or twice a day as necessary. However if the stoma is higher up the colon the waste matter will be looser, less regulated and in some instances a drainable stoma bag will be used. A drainable bag will be changed every 1-3 days according to personal preference.
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