Learning as much as you can before your colostomy will make the transition to life after surgery much easier.
If you suffer from an intestinal disorder such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or diverticulitis, your doctor may recommend colostomy surgery to relieve painful symptoms. During a colostomy, the surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen and removes the diseased section of the colon. An opening, or stoma, is then created in the abdominal wall to which the healthy portion of the intestine is attached. A pouch covers the stoma and collects fecal waste.
Prior to the surgery, you and your surgeon will discuss the operation and what you need to do before and after the procedure to ensure a successful recovery. Although a colostomy will likely improve your quality of life, you will need to adjust to an altered digestive tract and a new way to empty your bowels. You can prepare for the surgery by asking questions and getting the information you need to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Faced with a major operation like a colostomy, you’ll likely have many concerns. Your doctor or nurse specializing in ostomies will meet with you and detail the operation and what to expect after the surgery.
Here’s a list of four important questions to ask before the procedure:
How do I care for my pouch? In general, you should empty the pouch when it is one-third to half full. How often you need to empty it depends on what you eat and drink. Colostomy pouches generally need to be changed every three to five days, although if you experience any itching or burning around the stoma the pouch should be changed sooner. Your ostomy nurse will also help you order your ostomy supplies.
Can I bathe with my pouch? Yes, you can shower and bathe with your pouch on or off. However, if you shower with the pouch off, you may pass stools. Keep the skin around the stoma clean, but don’t slather on lotion that could make the pouch fail to adhere to the skin.
What can I eat after my colostomy? You don’t have to drastically change your diet after a colostomy. Immediately following the surgery you will be on a liquid diet before gradually adding easily-digestible foods like toast and oatmeal. As you recover, you can begin to add more foods to your diet. To better control your bowel movements, you’ll likely want to limit or cut out foods that cause gas and bloating, such as high-fiber foods, raw vegetables, fruit and vegetable skins, fried foods, and foods high in sugar. In their place, consume foods like bananas and white rice that thicken the stool and make managing the pouch easier. Although those are the general rules, you can always sample different cuisines and see how your body tolerates the food. Drinking plenty of water also aids in digestion.
Can I return to my normal activities? After surgery, you can participate in the same activities as you did prior to the operation, with some minor adjustments. For example, during your workouts, be sure to wear supportive underwear to keep the pouch in place. When you travel, pack extra supplies. An ostomy shouldn’t prevent you from having sexual intercouse, either.
Before your procedure, your doctor will go over what medications you can take in the days leading up to the operation. You’ll also need to empty your intestines the day before the surgery, and you will not be permitted to eat or drink the night before.
Following the surgery, you’ll need someone to drive you home from the hospital. You may also want to ask a friend or family member to help with household chores in the days immediately after the surgery when you might not feel up to cleaning and shopping.
The Center for Ileostomy Surgery specializes in colostomies and ileostomies. We have successfully treated many ostomy patients and will use that expertise to answer your questions about the surgery. We recognize that a colostomy is a life-changing operation and we strive to help you understand the procedure so you can enjoy a full, active life after your surgery.
Contact us today to set up an appointment.