A colostomy is a surgical procedure to divert one end of the large intestine (colon) through an opening in the abdominal wall(tummy).

The end of the bowel is called a stoma.Apouch is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that usually pass through the colon and out of the body through the rectum and anus (back passage).

A colostomy can be permanent or temporary.

It's estimated that around 6,400 permanent colostomies are carried out each year in the UK.

Why a colostomy may beneeded

A colostomymay beusedwhen there's a problem with an area of the colon. The colostomy diverts digestive waste away from the affected area, to give it a chance to heal.

In other cases, a colostomy is formed after a section of the colon has been removed and the bowel can't be joined back together. This may only be temporary, with a further operation to remove the colostomy at a later date, or it may be permanent.

A colostomy may be used to treat the following conditions:

  • Rectal cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Anal cancer In rare cases, a permanent colostomy may be needed to treat anal cancer. This is usuallyonly necessary if other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, have been unsuccessful.
  • Vaginal cancer or cervical cancer In some cases, a major operation known as a pelvic exenteration is required to treat cancer that has spread into the pelvis. A permanent colostomy is required as part of the operation.
  • Bowel incontinence A colostomy can be formed as a last resort, if all other medical and surgical treatments prove unsuccessful.
  • Injury If a part of the colon needs to be removed following an injury, such as a knife or gunshot wound, a colostomy may need to be formed.The colostomy isusually temporary, but in some cases can become permanent.
  • Hirschsprung's disease In this rare disease, the bowel doesn't work because it lacks the necessary nerve cells. Surgeryis sometimes required to prevent the colon from becoming blocked. During the operation, the section of the colon lacking the nerve cells is removed anda colostomy isformed, so stools can leave the body. Depending on how much of the colon is removed, the colostomymay be temporary or permanent.

Types of colostomy

There are two main ways a colostomy can be formed:

  • A loop colostomy where a loop of colon is pulled out through a hole in your abdomen, before being opened up and stitched to the skin.
  • An end colostomy where one end of the colon is pulled out through a hole in your abdomen and stitched to the skin.

Loop colostomies tend to be temporary and require a further operation at a later date to reverse the procedure. It's also possible to reverse an end colostomy, but this is less common. You'll usually have to stay in hospital for 3-10 days after a colostomy or colostomy reversal.

A similar procedure, known as an ileostomy , is sometimes used as an alternative to a colostomy. This involves creating a stoma by diverting the small intestine instead of the large intestine.

Specialist stoma nurses can offer support and advice to help you adapt to life with a colostomy.

  • complications of a colostomy

  • Content supplied by the NHS Website

    Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Sep 2015