A colostomy is one of the ostomy techniques. In medical terms, “stoma” is defined as communication between an inner hollow organ and the outer. Ostomy can be in the digestive system or urinary system.
In the specific case of colostomy, it consists of an opening in the abdomen so that parts of the colon can communicate with the outside. This point of contact is known as a “stoma”.
A colostomy artificially divides the intestine into two parts. The section located before the stoma is functional and performs its relatively normal activities. The remaining part after the stoma no longer works as the stool will come out through the opening.
At the same time, the rectum and anus, in addition to the last part of the colon, cease to be functional. However, it is possible that the mucosa continues to produce fluids that will be expelled.
When doctors place the colostomy in the colon, the absorption of nutrients remains intact. Remember that this process belongs to the small intestine which is located above and remains unaffected by the technique. What is affected is the production of feces and its emptying.
There are three types of colostomies:
1. A temporary colostomy
A temporary colostomy, as the name implies, responds to pathologies or interventions that develop better if part of the colon rests.
For example, when a patient has had bowel surgery that should be given time to heal. Then, to prevent the passage of feces, the doctor creates a temporary stoma which they will then close. When they perform the closure, the entire digestive system will function as normal again.
In this case , the doctor performs the technique for the purpose of leaving the colostomy permanent. For example , it may be due to colon cancer, which was diagnosed at an advanced stage and does not allow any solution other than removal of a large part of the colon.
When the doctor imagines that the injury will be irreparable, they place a permanent colostomy.
These colostomies get their name because of their location. The colon has three parts, and one of them is the transverse colon, which is located in the upper part of the stomach.
It is not common to perform a colostomy there, but it may be necessary due to special conditions. In this place it is also possible to plan a temporary or permanent technique.
A colostomy will thus release feces through the stoma to the outside. The stool no longer passes through the rectum and anus.
Colostomy bags collect the feces that pass involuntarily. These bags are attached to the stoma and serve as a deposit for the functioning colon, which rejects feces regularly.
Although there are several bag models and designs, they all have two main parts: the system that attaches the device to the skin and stoma, as well as the collection system, which can either be a simple bag or have a mechanism with emptying.
Many manufacturers produce these bags, and there are therefore many different prices. There are cheap and expensive bags, varying strength of materials, small, medium or large bags, transparent or colored bags, and bags with or without lids.
Another point of differentiating the bags is their emptying system. This decision will depend on the patient’s comfort, the availability of models and the purchasing power of the person who buys the bags. Basically, the different types are:
- Interchangeable. The bag is only used once. When filled, the patient removes it and attaches a new one.
- Emptyable. The bag has an opening that allows the patient to remove the contents and continue to use it.
- Washable. Some bags have a special fastening system that allows them to be removed. They are made of washable material and, when clean, can be reattached.
Possible complications of a colostomy
Interfering with the normal function of the intestine and having a stool bag attached to the body logically leads to certain complications. Some are harder to solve than others. The most common are:
- Dermatitis. The skin may turn red around the stoma due to the colostomy and the flow of stool. In general, with proper hygienic care and use of certain creams created for such a purpose, the harmful effect is manageable.
- Stomach cramps. After the operation, the stoma is reduced in diameter. Although this is normal, a medical professional, if it shrinks too much, may have to recanalize it with a new procedure. This is because it can block the stool.
- Movement of the stoma. In the area of colostomy, the intestine changes its disposition. Therefore, it can exert more pressure, and thus cause a hernia in the stoma. On the other hand, the opposite can happen, which means that the stoma can retract inwards. Both situations require medical consultation to implement measures to keep the colostomy functioning.