What is an Ostomy?
An ostomy is a temporary or permanent surgical opening made in the abdominal wall. The opening occurs on surgeries where there is removal of a portion of either the large or small intestine, or extraction of the bladder. Through the ostomy protrudes the small portion of intestine (about ½ inch) that remains connected to the stomach. That protrusion is called the stoma. After surgery, depending on the type of ostomy, fecal matter or urine is channeled through the stoma. With an ostomy there is loss of sphincter or control over urination or excretion, so ostomy patients must wear an ostomy bag to collect body waste. The ostomy might be temporary or permanent depending on the gravity of the condition. An ostomate is somebody who has an ostomy.
There are three types of ostomy surgeries: colostomy, ileostomy and urostomy. The first two make reference to the part of the intestinal system that is compromised in the procedure. A colostomy relates to the large intestine (colon) while an ileostomy to the small intestine (ileum). When the procedure involves the bladder, it is called a urostomy. An ostomy is performed for different reasons, but it remains as the last resort for intestinal pathologies. Excruciating pain and the complications involved in continued bathroom runs make it a life changing option for many patients suffering with Crohn's disease and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). For those with colon, anal, or bladder cancer, it might be the only alternative for survival. Likewise, for those suffering from accidents or punctures (e.g.: stabbing) there is no other option.
Assuming a successful surgery, physical complications after discharge are manageable. The main issues are psychological. These are very important to address so as not to fall into frustration and depression. Right after the procedure, it is critical to receive training from an ostomy nurse (ET) or ostomy professional on how to deal and manage the stoma. Also vital is the support from family, friends, and ostomy groups. There are ostomy communities where ostomy patients can share with and learn from others. We are proud to contribute with one such community:
An ostomy might be viewed as a harsh alternative. However, there has been many advances in ostomy supply development, specially regarding ostomy bags. Today there is an ostomy bag to meet almost any necessity or activity. This has made the notion of living with an ostomy no longer a limiting condition.