The following articles will provide information and practical advice related to the procedure of having a colostomy. The articles will outline the actual process of the operation, the risks involved and the nature of the illnesses such a procedure would benefit. For those who have already undergone a colostomy, the following information will aim to provide relevant information on living with a colostomy and the options available for life in the future.
What is a colostomy?
A colostomy is a relatively common surgical procedure which is carried out in order to alter the route of waste products to a pouch in the abdominal wall, known as a stoma, instead of through the colon. Most commonly, a sack or small pouch is attached to the stoma in order to catch the waste products; these may include stools and other waste products which would usually pass through the colon before being passed out of the rectum and anus.
The colon is an important component of the digestive process; it is here that the remaining nutrients and water are removed from the liquid remnants of the food that has been partly digested; once this has been done the liquid is solidified and becomes a stool. If the colon is damaged it may be necessary to find an alternative means of carrying out these processes. Parts of the colon may also have to be removed as a result of illnesses such as bowel cancer; if this is the case it may also be necessary to have a colostomy.
The actual procedure involves removing some of the colon; this process is also known as a colectomy. The removal may be carried out by means of an open incision or via keyhole surgery, where a tiny camera is inserted to guide the surgeon. Once the colon or part of the colon has been removed there are two different methods of reattaching the colon to the abdominal wall. A transverse colostomy involves attaching the top of the colon to a stoma in the upper section of the abdominal wall, while a descending colostomy involves attaching the lower section of the colon to the lower portion of the abdominal wall. Usually, transverse colostomies are used as a temporary measure to treat illnesses including bowel cancer and Chron’s disease. Descending colostomies are usually used to treat more complex conditions such as colon cancer.
Types of colostomy
There are two types of colostomy; these are known as temporary and permanent procedures. Temporary colostomies may be carried out following an operation or when a part of the colon has been damaged; this procedure allows the colon time to recover. Permanent colostomies are used when a large portion of the colon has been damaged or removed; commonly this is a result of colon or bowel cancer.
Colostomies are generally carried out under general anaesthetic meaning the patient will feel no sensation of pain during the procedure.