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People suffering from colorectal cancer or other illnesses of the lower digestive tract often require a colostomy, a type of surgery that creates an alternative pathway for feces and urine to leave the body. Having a colostomy is a major physiological change, and knowing what you are in on can help you cope with the changes effectively.
What Is A Colostomy?
The colon consists of the first five to six feet of the large intestine. It consists of three portions; the ascending colon (goes to the right side of the abdomen), the transverse colon (runs across the abdomen) and the descending colon (runs down the left side of the abdomen). It absorbs nutrients and water from the feces and returns them to the body.
The surgery requires general anesthesia. Depending on the abnormality, the procedure can be an open surgery or a laparoscopy. An open surgery is a highly invasive method that involves making a large incision in the abdominal cavity. The alternative is to make use of a laparoscope, which involves inserting a thin flexible tube with a camera at one end via small incisions into the abdomen. Both approaches have the same basic procedure, in which an opening (stoma) is made in the abdominal cavity. A healthy part of the colon, brought out through the stoma, is stitched to the skin around the opening. Placed around the stoma is a bag or pouch into which the feces and urine drain.
What To Expect After A Colostomy
The outcomes of the procedure vary from person to person. After a colostomy, certain differences occur in the consistency of the stool produced:
- If the stoma exists at the lower end of the colon, the consistency of the stools is more solid due to increased water absorption.
- If the colostomy is near the rectum (along the descending colon), stools have a well-formed consistency very similar to that of normal feces.
- If the colostomy is along the transverse or ascending colon, there is decreased water absorption from the feces and they have a loose consistency. They pass through the stoma quickly and the patient may require a thicker stoma to accommodate them.
Besides the changes in the consistency of the stool, patients may also experience difficulty in digestion, changes in the appetite, dull abdominal pain, and other symptoms.
Colostomy bags are manufactured using non-allergic materials with special filters for odor reduction. A variety of colostomy appliances are available, which include:
- One-piece pouches – the flange (part that adheres to the skin) and pouch are attached together. The bag is disposed when it is full.
- Two-piece pouches – the flange and pouch are separate, but attachment is an option. The bag can be emptied several times before disposing.
Additional products to facilitate patients and limit complications include:
- protective skin wipes.
- support girdles and belts.
- products inserted into the colostomy bag to minimize odors.
- protective stoma rings and caps to prevent leakages.
- adhesive-removing sprays.
- specially-designed undergarments.