What is ostomy?

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An ostomy is a surgical procedure in which an opening is created in the body for the discharge of body wastes. The term ostomy is used to describe both the procedure and the opening that is created during the procedure.

An ostomy is done when the digestive system or urinary system is unable to remove waste from the body. The doctor attaches the end of the small or large intestine or the end of the ureter to the outside of the body. The point at which the ureter or intestine protrudes from the abdominal wall is called the stoma. Through this opening, waste can leave the body and flow into a collection system for disposal.

How to empty your drainable ostomy pouch

A drainable ostomy pouch opens at one end to allow you to empty it. The pouch is usually held shut with a clip system.

It is best to empty the pouch when it is one-third to one-half full. This prevents the pouch from getting too full and heavy and pulling off. Many people routinely empty the pouch each time they urinate.

Here are the basic steps.

  1. Place some toilet paper in the bowl.

    This can help prevent splashing.

  2. Sit down on the toilet with the pouch between your legs.
  3. Unclip the pouch and allow its contents to fall into the toilet.
  4. Clean the end of the pouch with toilet paper.
  5. Reclip the pouch.

How does having an ostomy affect your medicine?

When you have an ostomy, most medicine is absorbed in the small intestine. How well a medicine is absorbed depends on how much functioning intestine you have and the form of the medicine. Coated pills and time-release medicines may pass through the intestine too quickly to be absorbed. If you can, use liquid medicines.

Tell all your health professionals (doctors and pharmacist) about the type of ostomy you have and the location of the stoma (the exposed end of the intestine). Your doctor can help you choose the best form of medicine for you. He or she can tell you if you need to vary the dosage.

If your rectum has been removed, carry a special card with you. The card states that you can't be given rectal enemas or suppositories. It also states that you can't have your temperature taken rectally.

When can you be physically active after an ostomy?

Right after the ostomy surgery, your activities will be restricted to ensure healing. During this time, don't lift more than 10 lb (4.5 kg) for 6 weeks. This decreases the risk for hernias.

After this period, you probably will be able to resume normal activities. Noncontact activities, such as swimming, hiking, camping, and tennis, are usually fine. If you had an exercise routine, talk to your doctor about when you can restart it. Ask your doctor before you take part in contact sports that could injure the stoma. These sports include football, karate, and basketball.

Ostomy care: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are vomiting.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You have a fever.
  • You cannot pass stools or gas.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your stoma turns pale or changes color.
  • Your stoma swells or bleeds.
  • You have little or no waste going into your pouch.

How does having an ostomy affect the way you eat?

After ostomy surgery, what you eat will gradually change from a largely liquid diet to your former diet. This change generally takes about 6 weeks. Foods that you didn't fully digest before your surgery will remain undigested. You will notice them in your ostomy pouch.

If your colon (large intestine) was removed, you'll lose more water because the stool no longer passes through the large intestine where water is absorbed. Your doctor may suggest that you drink more fluids each day and that you not restrict salt in your diet. If a large part of your small intestine was removed (along with your colon), you need to make sure that you get enough potassium, sodium, and other nutrients. Your doctor may recommend a vitamin or mineral supplement.

Some foods may cause odor, gas, or diarrhea. Some may cause an obstruction in an ileostomy. Your doctor can give you a list of these foods.

Colostomy Pouch

Colostomy pouch

A colostomy pouch (or bag) is worn on the outside of the body to collect waste that normally passes through the digestive system. The pouch is needed after a portion of the colon has been surgically removed.

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