Having a stoma
A stoma is a surgically created opening in the abdomen that allows bowel movements (faeces, stools or poo) to leave the body. The end of the bowel is brought out through the opening and stitched onto the skin. Some people need a stoma after bowel surgery. This may be temporary or permanent.
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There are two types of stoma:
- colostomy – made from the colon in the large bowel
- ileostomy – made from the ileum in the small bowel.
A temporary stoma is needed only until the newly joined bowel has healed. In this situation, a loop stoma is often used. A loop of the bowel is brought out, and then cut and stitched to the skin. This creates two openings. You will have another operation, usually after 3–12 months, to close the stoma and rejoin the bowel. This is called a stoma reversal. About 1 in 10 people with rectal cancer need a permanent stoma.
Like the inside of the mouth, a stoma is soft, moist, and red or pink in colour. It may be level with the surrounding skin or slightly raised. The stoma itself doesn’t have any feeling, but the skin around it does.
Stomas vary in size and can change shape during the weeks after surgery. A stomal therapy nurse will usually see you before any surgery that may result in a stoma. They will also see you after your operation to teach you how to look after the stoma and give you advice about any changes to your stoma or the skin around it.
A type of stoma made from an opening in the colon (part of the large bowel).
A type of stoma made from an opening in the ileum (part of the small bowel).
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A/Prof David A Clark, Colorectal Surgeon, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD, and The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare Gold Coast, QLD; Dr Hooi Ee, Specialist Gastroenterologist and Head, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Annie Harvey, Consumer; A/Prof Louise Nott, Medical Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Hobart, TAS; Caley Schnaid, Accredited Practising Dietitian, GenesisCare, St Leonards and Frenchs Forest, NSW; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Alina Stoita, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Richard Vallance, Consumer.
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