What is an ostomy?

An ostomy is a surgically created opening between an internal organ and the surface of the abdominal wall. A circular incision is made in the abdominal wall (see image below) and a piece of intestine is brought through the incision to lie partially outside the body wall. The part of the bowel that is seen on the abdomen surface is called a stoma. Ostomies may be used by the surgeon to treat complicated abdominal problems or to allow for healing of the site of surgery. Cancer, trauma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), bowel obstruction, infection, fecal incontinence (inability to control bowel movements) and diverticulitis (inflammation of tiny pockets that commonly form in the colon wall) are all possible examples of situations where surgery may involve an ostomy.

Two types of ostomies


“Ileostomy” is a surgically created opening involving the ileum, a part of the small intestine, to the skin of the abdominal wall.

“Colostomy” is a surgically created opening involving a part of the colon, or large intestine, to the skin of the abdominal wall.

How will an ostomy affect my daily life?

Having any type of surgery can affect how you look and feel about your body, including your ostomy. Adjusting to your body after surgery may take some time. It is important to stay positive, learn to adapt, and get back to living. Your colorectal surgeon will support you through this time of adjustment with practical tips so you can maintain a healthy and happy life.

Are there complications of an ostomy?

Complications with an ostomy can occur. The most common ostomy-related problem is local skin irritation from the stoma or from the stoma appliance. These are typically minor and can be easily remedied by careful local care.


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