Inflammatory bowel disease describes two distinct conditions, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both can be treated with an ileostomy.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two serious conditions that affect the intestines — ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. Although both present similar symptoms — stomach pain, diarrhea, unintended weight loss, fatigue, and sometimes bleeding — UC and Crohn’s disease strike different parts of the digestive tract.
In UC, the superficial lining of the large intestine and rectum become inflamed and marked with sores. Crohn’s disease is also an inflammatory disorder, but it’s concentrated within the inner layers of the digestive tract. UC occurs solely within the large intestine or colon, while Crohn’s disease may flare up anywhere along the digestive tract.
IBD can be a debilitating, chronic disease, but with treatment symptoms can be managed or eliminated. One common and effective way to treat IBD is with an ileostomy.
The exact cause of IBD has yet to be determined, but it could be due to the immune system in the body overreacting to an invading virus or bacteria and attacking healthy cells. In the case of UC and Crohn’s disease, those healthy cells are in the digestive tract. For that reason, UC and Crohn’s are typically first treated with medications to suppress the immune system or fight inflammation. If drugs fail to manage IBD, then your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure known as an ileostomy.
An ileostomy removes any or all damaged parts of the intestine and creates a new opening to empty fecal waste. Depending upon the severity and location of the disease, the entire colon may be removed during a colectomy. After the colon is removed, the surgeon takes the end of the healthy small intestine, or ileum, and attaches it to an incision in the abdominal wall — usually on the right side — and creates a stoma. Your stool will drain from the stoma into a pouch. This type of ileostomy is called an end ileostomy and is permanent.
A loop ileostomy may also be used to treat IBD. In this procedure, a loop of the small intestine is divided into two pieces, stitched close together, and then attached to an incision in the abdomen from which fecal matter exits. Loop ileostomies are typically temporary and can be reversed at a later date after the intestine heals.
For Crohn’s disease, the damaged portions of the intestine are typically cut out during an ileostomy procedure and the healthy sections reattached. Unfortunately, Crohn’s disease may recur even after surgery, but you can continue to manage the symptoms with medication.
Following surgery, your doctor and stoma nurse will help you adjust to living with your ileostomy and ostomy pouch. You’ll also be closely monitored for complications, such as blockages or infection.
You’ll need to change your diet, at least in the immediate weeks after the surgery, so as to avoid foods that could irritate the intestine such as high-fiber foods or dairy products. At first, your stools will be watery and you may experience excessive gas, but as your stoma and intestines heal, your bowel movements will become more solid.
As you recover, you can add more foods to your diet. Because part of your intestine has been removed, your body may not be able to absorb all essential vitamins, so you’ll need to take supplements.
Ileostomy surgery is a major operation and it’s normal to feel anxious about undergoing a life-changing procedure. But with time, you can learn to embrace life with your ileostomy.
At the Center for Ileostomy Surgery, Dr. Don Schiller has performed hundreds of ileostomies. If your life is compromised by IBD, don’t wait any longer to address this treatable disease. We’ll answer your questions and guide you on the road to a full recovery. Contact us today for a consultation.