A colostomy is a surgical procedure to divert one end of the large intestine (colon) through an opening in the abdominal wall (tummy).
The end of the bowel is called a stoma. A pouch is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that usually pass through the colon and out of the body through the rectum and anus (back passage).
A colostomy can be permanent or temporary.
It's estimated that around 6,400 permanent colostomies are carried out each year in the UK.
Types of colostomy
There are two main ways a colostomy can be formed:
A loop colostomy – where a loop of colon is pulled out through a hole in your abdomen, before being opened up and stitched to the skin.
An end colostomy – where one end of the colon is pulled out through a hole in your abdomen and stitched to the skin.
Loop colostomies tend to be temporary and require a further operation at a later date to reverse the procedure. It's also possible to reverse an end colostomy, but this is less common. You'll usually have to stay in hospital for 3-10 days after a colostomy or colostomy reversal.
A similar procedure, known as an ileostomy, is sometimes used as an alternative to a colostomy. This involves creating a stoma by diverting the small intestine instead of the large intestine.
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