What is an ileostomy?
An ileostomy (referred to as stoma) is a piece of small intestine that is brought through the skin to provide the body with an alternative way to eliminate the waste of digestion. Patients with medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, or emergency bowel surgery can require ileostomy as part of their treatment. Its main purpose is to divert the fecal stream to allow the small intestine or colon to heal. For some patients an ileostomy is a permanent treatment, but for most it is temporary and typically gets reversed within 6 months or later. There are 2 types of ileostomy: end ileostomy [Figure 1A, B] and loop ileostomy [Figure 2A, B].
Figure 1A – End Ileostomy
Figure 1B – End Ileostomy
Figure 2A – Loop Ileostomy
Figure 2B – Loop Ileostomy
With an ileostomy, the byproducts of digestion do not get to the colon where the water typically gets absorbed. The output from an ileostomy is more liquid in nature. Ensuring a proper fit of the appliance to collect the waste and managing the output are the 2 most important aspects of your care. Failure to properly care for your stoma on a daily basis can cause dehydration and skin irritation issues which can lead to hospitalization. While an ileostomy is a life changing event, the majority of patients learn how to effectively manage their stoma and after a period of psychological and physical adaptation they can lead successful and productive lives.
To learn more about the following topics, see Ileostomy Care:
- Emptying and measuring the output
- Managing gas and odor
- Sexual activity and adjusting to your ileostomy
- Signs to watch for
- Showering and bathing
- Wearing a pouch
- What to eat