What is an ostomy?
An ostomy or stoma is a surgically created opening connecting the bowel to the surface of the body. Different kinds of ostomies are named for the bowel involved. For example an ileostomy connects the ileum (the last part of the small intestine) to the abdominal wall whereas a colostomy connects the colon or large intestine to the abdominal wall. An ostomy may be temporary or permanent depending on the condition being treated.
For many patients, the idea of an ostomy may be very anxiety provoking because of fears about hygiene, social and intimate relationships and life in general with an ostomy. Preoperative preparation by your colorectal surgeon and ostomy counseling is therefore a key part of your surgical preparation in the weeks to days leading up to your surgery. Dr. Zaghiyan will answer all of your questions and help you cope with any fears you may have regarding the stoma. It is important to know that patients can live a normal life with an ostomy. You will also be introduced to an enterostomal (ET) nurse who specializes in ostomy care. In cases of planned or elective surgery the ET nurse will evaluate you for the best location on your abdominal wall for the ostomy. This decision is based on your physical build, belt line and abdominal wall contour in the sitting and standing position. Once the best location is identified, your skin will be marked by a pen to guide Dr. Zaghiyan in choosing the correct location for the ostomy during surgery.
Will I have help in caring for the ostomy after surgery?
Enterostomal (ET) nurses will see you in the hospital after surgery to answer any questions and help you with the proper application and care for your ostomy. In addition, home nursing care will be arranged to help with your stoma at home until you are comfortable with it’s management.
How does an ostomy function?
After the ostomy has been created, a special pouch (ostomy appliance or bag) is attached to your skin with adhesive to help catch the stool and protect your skin from the moisture of the stool. Your bowel movements will naturally empty into the pouch. You may feel when this happens however it is generally not painful. The ostomy bag will fill with stool and you may empty the bag when it fills. The ostomy appliance itself is disposable and may be changed as needed.
Will my social and intimate life be affected?
Many people fear that the ostomy will hinder normal social interactions and their intimate life. It is important to know that an ostomy is generally well hidden by clothing. Therefore, unless you tell people, others will not be able to tell you have an ostomy. Individuals can resume all of their regular activities including sports, going to the beach, swimming in pools and the ocean. In fact, many public figures and professional athletes have had an ostomy. With regards to sexual activity, many individuals fear how their sexual partner will think of them because of their ostomy. However, most partners do not perceive an ostomy as something that changes the person they love. With patience and communication with your partner, sexual intimacy can once again be enjoyed. Support groups are also be a great resource to help cope with these concerns.
The following websites are great resources for individuals with planned ostomy surgery.
www.ostomy.org – United Ostomy Association of America
http://www.facs.org/patienteducation/skills/skillspatient.html – ACS Ostomy Home Skills for Patients
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/02/the-brave-colostomy-bag-selfies.html – Colostomy Bag Selfies