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Living with an osotomy Living with an osotomy
An "ostomy" is when there is surgical opening made into the body. There are a variety of reasons whay you might need to have... Living with an osotomy

by Kimberley Allen R.N.

An “ostomy” is when there is surgical opening made into the body. There are a variety of reasons whay you might need to have an ostomy. Birth defects and disease are the most common reasons for this surgical prceedure.  Believe it or not ostomy surgery has been being performed since the 1700’s.  In those early days the proceedure was actually done in the patients lower back.  Then in the 1800’s as medical science and surgical techniques improved ostomies became more common and easier to care for and live with.
The three most common types of ostomies are colonostomy, ileostomy, and urostomy.  A colostomy is when part of the large intestine is surgically cut and one end of the colon is sutured (sewn) to a surgical opening in the abdominal wall.  The opening is called a stoma.  An ileostomy involves the surgical removal of the entire large intestine and usually the rectum.  Because an ileostomy invoves the removal of the entire large intestine the end of the small intestine is sutured to an opening in the abdominal wall to create a stoma.
Both of these procedures provide an alternative route for fecal matter to be expelled from the body and both can be either temporary or permanent.  A urostomy is when the bladder is surgically removed or by passed and a stoma is formed through a proceedure known as illeal conduit urinary diversion.
Being told that you need an ostomy can an event as being told you have a termial disease or illness.  The reaction is usually something like “absolutely not” or “no way”.  Healthcare providers have heard all the excuses and denials and are prepared to sit and explain all your options.  Unfortunately to often the only alternative is death.  The idea of wearing a bag on your side for the rest of your life is intimidating to say the least.  Though it sounds scary most people find that they feel healthier than they have in years andbelieve it or not once you feel better you’ll find not only can you participate in pretty much all the activities you used to before you got sick and started feeling miserable.
After your surgery while still in the hospital a specialized team of healthcare professionals will help you adjust and teach you how to care for your ostomy.  Besides teaching you how to physically care for your ostomy and stoma they will teach you about living with an ostomy including the importance of monitoring your medications, know the side effects, which ones can cause constipation or diarrhea.  A dietician will help you to learn which foods can cause excess gas, how to avoid issues with constipation and diarrhea and the foods that you need to get adequate nutrition.  Also, ostomy bags and supplies have improved
significantly over the years, many lie flat and can not be noticed under clothing.  Wiith the exception of rough contact sports that have a high potential for injury most people with an ostomy are able to return to their previous activities including work.
I had a friend that was a Vietnam veteran and he had had to have an itleostomy due to exposure to agent orange.  He was able to go swimming with his family, which by the way he and his wife had their 2 daughters after his surgery and he was an avid Harley Davidson rider. He always said that life was way better for him after the surgery than before the surgery. There are also numerous ostomy organizations and support groups available to help you adjust to life after an ostomy.

Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at