How can a colostomy help fecal incontinence?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
A surgical technique for fecal incontinence -- usually done as a last resort -- is colostomy. This means that feces is entirely diverted from the rectum and anal canal (the last inch of the rectum ending at the opening to the outside of the body) through a surgically created opening. In a colostomy, the surgeon attaches the end of the bowel to an opening made in the patient's abdomen. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and requires several days of hospitalization.

After a colostomy, you will need to care for the opening on the skin (called the ostomy), and you will need to wear a small pouch outside your body to collect waste material. Modern ostomy bags are not visible when you are dressed, and they control odor very effectively. Most times, no one is even aware that you have had the surgery.
For individuals with very severe fecal incontinence, for whom other treatments do not help, a colostomy may be performed. In this procedure, which may be temporary or permanent, the colon is surgically disconnected and one end brought through an opening made in the abdomen, called a stoma, through which stool exits the body and is collected in a pouch attached to the abdomen.

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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.