What is a colostomy?

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A colostomy is an opening of the colon onto the skin's surface. In this video, Eric Changchien, MD, a colorectal surgeon at Riverside Community Hospital, describes how a colostomy is performed and how people with colostomies can live normal lives.
Mark A. O'Rourke, MD
Hematology & Oncology
A colostomy is an opening in the belly (abdominal wall) that is made during surgery. The end of the colon (large intestine)is brought through this opening to form a stoma. Where the stoma will be on the abdomen depends on which part of the colon is used to make it. Some colostomies are large, some small; some are on the left side of the abdomen, some are on the right side, others may be in the middle. An enterostomal therapy (ET) nurseor the surgeon will figure out the best location for your stoma. (An ET nurse is a specially trained registered nurse who takes care of and teaches ostomy patients. This nurse may also be called a Wound, Ostomy and Continence nurse – WOC -- or an ostomy nurse.)
The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Carla Rohloff
Oncology Nursing

A colostomy is a surgical procedure that brings one end of the large intestine (colon) out through an incision in the abdominal wall and suturing it into place. This is called a stoma. This allows stool moving through the intestine to leave the body through the stoma and drain into a bag attached over the stoma. A colostomy may be permanent or temporary depending on the circumstances.

A colostomy is sometimes a treatment for a large cancer or cancer low in the colon that requires removal of a good portion of the rectum. To allow healing at the site of surgery, an opening is made at the skin level so that the intestinal contents can empty into a pouch outside of the abdomen. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent. 
When preparing for an open colectomy, if a stent can't be placed or if the tumor has caused a hole in the colon, surgery may be needed right away. This usually is the same type of operation that's done to remove the cancer, but instead of reconnecting the segments of the colon, the top end of the colon is attached to an opening (stoma) in the skin of the abdomen to allow body wastes out. This is known as a colostomy and is usually temporary. Sometimes the end of the small intestine (the ileum) is connected to a stoma in the skin instead. This is called an ileostomy. A removable collecting bag is connected to the stoma to hold the waste. Once you are healthier, another operation (known as a colostomy reversal or ileostomy reversal) can be done to attach the ends of the colon back together or to attach the ileum to the colon. Rarely, if a tumor can't be removed or a stent placed, the colostomy or ileostomy may need to be permanent. 
With colostomy, the end of the colon is brought through an opening in the abdomen, and a pouch attached to collect waste.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.