Colostomy A Patient's Perspective By Craig J. M.

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What Is A Colostomy

In simple terms, a colostomy is when the colon is cut in half and the end leading to the stomach is brought through the wall of the abdomen and attached to the skin. The end of the colon that leads to the rectum is closed off and becomes dormant. This is known as a "Hartmann's Colostomy". There are other types of colostomy procedures, but this one is the most common.

Usually a colostomy is performed for infection, blockage, or in rare instances, severe trauma of the colon. This is not an operation to be taken lightly. It is truly quite serious and demands the close attention of both patient and doctor. A colostomy is often performed so that an infection can be stopped and/or the affected colon tissues can heal. The alternative to the colostomy is often pretty grim, death. Just be glad you are here. It is important realize that, with a few exceptions, you can look forward to having the colostomy reversed.

The Operation

The operation usually takes between two and four hours depending on difficulty, infection, and the severity of trauma if that is the case. Most of the reasons for a colostomy are: diverticulitis, other inflammatory bowel conditions, or cancer.

It is normal practice to open the abdomen with an incision from just below belt line to just below the sternum. This gives open access to the internal organs. If you have an infection, the doctor will suction and flush out the contaminants until you are clean.

Your colon is retrieved and inspected to locate the bad area. The bad area is then removed and the rectal end of the colon is sealed off. The end of the colon that comes from the stomach is cleaned and brought through the abdominal wall through another incision to provide an opening for the colon to expel gas and stool into a colostomy bag that is sealed to the skin (with various adhesives) and changed as needed. After the colon is sutured in place, the first incision is either sutured or stapled together and the entire area is taped to protect the sutures or staples. A colostomy bag is applied to the area where the colon comes through the abdomen. This area is called a stoma.

During the operation there will be a catheter installed to drain the urine. This usually stays in for a couple of days. You will also have an intravenous (IV) line for medication and fluids. This will stay in for several days.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/25/2016
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