Colostomy

 

When disease or damage to the gastrointestinal tract requires surgical treatment, an alternate route for bowel movements is sometimes needed.  A colostomy is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon connects a section of the colon to an opening created in the skin of the abdomen.  The opening that is created allows the body’s wastes to drain, and is called a stoma.  An apparatus to hold a pouch for collecting waste is connected to the opening.  Colostomy pouches can easily be concealed by clothing and emptied as needed.

 

A colostomy is named for the section of the intestinal tract which is connected to the stoma or opening.  Depending on the section of colon that is damaged, the surgeon will cut away the portion of intestine that is diseased, and connect the remaining end to the stoma.  The more colon that can be preserved, the more solid the stool will be.  If the surgical resection is close to t he beginning of the colon, the stool is usually more liquid in consistency.          

A colostomy can be permanent or temporary.   In intestinal surgeries where healing is needed, the drainage of waster can be re-routed away from the surgical site to allow recovery.  Once the intestines are functioning properly again, the colostomy is reversed and the stoma closed.   

A colostomy may be needed in severe cases of bowel disease, such as Chrohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis.  Because the colon functions so poorly, patients experience extreme discomfort and unpredictable urges to pass stool.   If conservative treatments do not improve the situation, a colostomy can provide significant relief of symptoms. 

When colon cancer is detected, surgeons attempt to remove as little of the colon as possible.  In some cases, cutting away diseased polyps is all that’s needed. If the cancer is more invasive, removal of all or part of the colon will be needed.   For partial removal of the colon, surgeons may be able to anastamose, or reattach the remaining sections of the bowel. A colostomy procedure may be used temporarily to allow the reattached area to heal.

 

 

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