The Early Years
Bowel blockages were usually fatal up to the latter part of the 18th century. Doctors’ surgical knowledge did not encompass techniques that could effectively correct such obstructions. Consequently the risk of infection was extremely high and for patients diagnosed with the condition the situation was much like a death sentence. Palliative measures were very ineffective and consisted of powerful laxatives, enemas, and ingesting potentially poisonous mercury, all of which did not do much to alleviate pain and much less the condition.
The First Successful Ostomy Procedure
In the year 1776, Dr. M. Pilore, a French surgeon specializing in treating bowel obstructions and other digestive tract related illnesses, performed the first ostomy surgery. The procedure was quite complicated by those years’ standards. Very much like today, the surgeon made an incision on the abdominal wall and dissected the large intestine. One side was anastomosed and the other was pulled out of the incision just above the skin, effectively creating what is now known as a stoma. The opening served as a clean pathway to expel fecal waste. A sponge was attached to the opening with an elastic bandage to absorb any leakage. The operation was successful as far as irrigating the digestive tract was concerned. However, the patient died of apparent mercurial poisoning from prior treatments to deal with the obstruction.
Following the first successful colostomy, different doctors all over the world tried to make the procedure safer by lowering the risk of post operative complications such as sepsis and the subsequent infection. While the mortality rate was still very high, doing nothing was fatal. Therefore, many surgeons took to perform the procedure and do all they could to improve survival rates. From 1716 to 1839 there were about 27 documented colostomy procedures, of which only six patients managed to pull through without any complications. An ostomy then, was considered the last recourse for doctors and their patients.
Modern Day Ostomies
Up until the early part of the 20th century, there was little knowledge of bowel and small intestine injuries. Patients were full of post-op problems and were forced to remain at the hospital for weeks and even months after surgery. There were no antibiotics and poor asepecis contributed to high mortality rates. In the early 1950s, ostomy surgery made major advances. Later, with the help of countless researches and clinical trials, new surgical techniques were discovered and made available for use all over the world. These days, people who suffer from blockages can now undergo ostomy procedures safely since the threat of severe post operative infections and other forms of complications is totally manageable. Ostomy procedures are now a certified life saver, and having an ostomy is no longer the burden that it was before.
On the “life after Ostomy” front, up until the late 1950’s, ostomies were kept secret as nobody felt comfortable with the subject. All psychological recovery was left to chance and the individual. Once the physical side of the problem was solved, it took much longer to deal with the associated discomfort and psychic trauma that followed. Once the first nurses became trained, quality of life began changing for ostomates. Today, Enterostomal Therapists, support groups, and the internet all contribute to improve conditions and to quickly bring ostomates back to full functionality.
The Ostomy Bags
Aside from being attributed with the first procedure, Monsieur Pillore paved the way for the invention of the first ostomy collector. It consisted of a sponge held together by an elastic bandage. The sponge required constant draining, and it was inconvenient. Yet it was a start. During future procedures, much attention was allocated to the patient’s post-op functionality and new developments came including leather pouches and glass bottles. In 1920, the so called Koenig-Rutzen rubber pouch was launched. No further advances occurred until around the time of WW II when rubber pouches with adhesives and detachable caps came out. From that point on, mass manufacturing and continued modifications to that original concept took place. However, reusable rubber bags with rigid flanges and coarse adhesives were the norm. Vinyl was launched in the 70’s, but made dealing with odor difficult. It was not long after that light when advanced and odor resistant pouches were developed. Today there is a full range of options and numerous manufacturers dedicated to deliver ostomy pouching systems.