Once your ileostomy surgery is over, you’ll want to get back to your everyday life. Here’s a roadmap to a successful recovery.
An ileostomy is a major operation — one you’ve spent many days preparing for both physically and mentally. Once the procedure is over, you can look forward to a successful recovery and return to your normal activities. But first you should know what to expect in the days and weeks following the surgery. Fortunately, your doctor and specially-trained nurses stand ready to help you heal and adjust to your ileostomy.
After your procedure, your quality of life will likely improve because you’ll no longer have to deal with the debilitating effects of illnesses like colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. To treat these conditions, your doctor performs a standard ileostomy by making an incision in your abdomen through which the end of the small intestine — the ileum — is stitched to the abdominal wall. The incision becomes an opening, or stoma, from which fecal waste is eliminated into an external pouch.
Other ileostomy procedures create an internal pouch. A Kock, or Barnett Continent Intestinal Reservoir, ileostomy uses part of the small intestine to form an internal pouch attached to a stoma on the abdominal wall. This pouch can be drained with a tube. An ileoanal J-pouch procedure also creates a pouch with a section of the ileum, which is then connected to the anal canal. This allows the patient to expel bowel movements normally.
In some cases, the ileostomy may be a temporary procedure to allow your large intestine to heal, with the ileum reattached at a later date. In a permanent ileostomy, however, the colon and rectum may be removed. Whatever the scope of your procedure, here’s what you can expect to encounter as you progress through the recovery period.
Each patient is different, but in general, a hospital stay for an ileostomy extends from several days to a week. While in the hospital, your food intake will be limited to clear liquids at least for the first few days. As your body heals, you can try introducing solid foods.
Following surgery, you may want to avoid high-fiber foods and certain vegetables such as beans and broccoli. After time, you can introduce more foods into your diet, but be sure to take note of which ones upset your digestive system. In addition, since you have less intestinal track to absorb water, you should drink plenty of non-caffeinated liquids to prevent dehydration.
A stoma nurse will explain how to care for your stoma and external pouch, instructing you on how often it should be changed. It’s important to keep the area around the stoma clean and dry and watch for any signs of irritation. For those with an internal pouch, your nurse will tell you what to expect and how to manage your bowel movements. For example, after a J-pouch surgery, you may experience frequent eliminations in the first days following the procedure.
A typical recovery period following an ileostomy is roughly six weeks. You should ramp up your activity level slowly, starting off with brisk walks to build your strength. Ask your doctor when you can increase your workouts — it’s best to avoid strenuous exercise such as weightlifting until you have permission.
The specialists at the Center for Ileostomy Surgery will help prepare you for your procedure and guide you through your recovery period. We can also discuss any concerns you may have about living with an ileostomy. Our doctors and nurses will treat you with compassion and understanding to make sure you have an active and fulfilling life after your surgery. Contact us today to set up an appointment.