An ileostomy is a diversion of the small intestine to create a permanent or temporary stoma. A stoma is an opening on the abdomen to expel bodily wastes. This bowel diversion essentially bypasses the entire colon and rectum. The wastes evacuated by the stoma are collected in a plastic bag.

Small intestine

The small intestine is a part of the gastrointestinal tract between the stomach and the large intestine. The function of the small intestine is to absorb nutrients from digested foods. These nutrients are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. The leftover food wastes move into the colon. The colon absorbs water and electrolytes and passes out wastes.

Reasons you may need an ileostomy

Your doctor may recommend the removal or bypassing of your colon for the following reasons.

  • There is a blockage or damage in the large intestine.
  • The large intestine is removed during surgery.
  • The colon is ruptured. It can cause abdominal infections.

People suffering from colorectal concerns may need an ileostomy. Women getting treatment for ovarian cancer may also need to undergo ileostomy surgery. Other conditions necessitating an ileostomy include Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and familial adenomatous polyposis.

The duration of an ileostomy

People undergoing ileostomy surgery as a part of cancer treatment may need this ostomy for only a few months. The purpose is to allow the colon to heal. Some people may need a permanent ileostomy, though.

Types of ileostomy

There are three types of ileostomy.

  • The first type is the standard ileostomy, and it is the most common type. To create this ileostomy, the surgeon pulls a part of the small intestine through the lower part of the abdomen and sutures its edges with the abdominal skin to create a stoma. You will have to wear an ileostomy bag over the stoma to manage this ileostomy.
  • The second type of ileostomy is the continent ileostomy. The surgeon will create a reservoir using the end of the small intestine. Will then connect this reservoir to the outside of the body with the help of a valve consisting of live tissues from the bowel. This ileostomy eliminates the need to wear an ostomy bag. The patient has to use a catheter to draw waste materials out of this internal reservoir, though.
  • The third type of ileostomy is the ileoanal reservoir. It is also called a pelvic pouch or J-pouch. The surgeon will create a reservoir from the small intestine and a part of the rectum. This pouch will then be connected to the anal canal, allowing the patient to move bowels naturally after the bowel heals.

Recovery after surgery

You will have to stay in the hospital for up to one week after surgery. During this time, your surgical staff and doctors will make sure that you are heading towards recovery without any complications. Once they are sure about it, they will allow you to go home. Full recovery usually takes six to eight weeks. During this recovery phase, you will have to be particularly careful about your diet and physical activity.

Caring for an ileostomy

You will need to wear an ostomy pouch over the stoma to prevent stomal output from coming in contact with the peristomal skin and cause irritation. Since peristomal skin has to assume the vital role of supporting your ostomy pouch, you have to make sure that it remains as healthy as other areas of your abdominal skin.

You can discuss pouching options and other products with your healthcare provider or ostomy care nurse.