What is a colostomy?
A colostomy is a stoma created from the large intestine or colon (1). The surgeon will bring the bowel through a small incision to the surface of the abdomen (2) where it will be sutured to the skin. 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. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent.
Why might somebody need a colostomy?
A colostomy is the most commonly formed type of stoma. The most common diseases or conditions resulting in colostomies are rectal cancer, diverticular disease, trauma and congenital abnormalities such as Hirschsprung’s disease.
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 normally be worn. This would typically be changed 1-3 times a day as necessary. However, if the stoma is higher up the colon the waste matter will be looser, less regulated and a drainable stoma bag may be more appropriate. A drainable bag will be changed every few days according to personal preference.
Types of colostomy
There are two types of colostomy - an end or a loop. In an end colostomy, the rectum may be removed or need to rest and the end of the colon is bought out through the stoma. In a loop colostomy, a loop of the colon is brought out through the abdomen and cut before being sutured down which results in two stomas joined together