What is an Ostomy: Types, Surgery Recovery & Care

February 22, 2023

An ostomy may seem like an overwhelming change. It will take time to get accustomed to the ostomy device and develop a care schedule, but skilled nursing can help you recover successfully.

What is an Ostomy?

An ostomy is a surgical procedure that alters how waste products, like urine and stool, exit your body. Part of your intestine is rerouted to an incision in your abdomen called a stoma that connects to a pouch outside your body. Ostomies allow your intestines to heal from inflammation or infection.  

Conditions that require an ostomy include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Trauma to the abdomen or colon

Depending on your medical condition and recovery, an ostomy can be permanent or temporary.

Types of Ostomies

There are two main types of ostomies:

Colostomy: A colostomy uses part of your colon to route waste out of your body through the left side of your abdomen. A loop colostomy uses a looped section of your colon, while an end colostomy attaches the end of your colon to your abdominal wall.

Ileostomy: This procedure takes a portion of your small intestine called the ileum and attaches it to a stoma on the left side of your abdomen. A urostomy is an ileostomy that pulls urine from your bladder through an ileal conduit. A J-pouch ileostomy uses an internal reservoir to collect stool from your small intestine.

Recovering from Ostomy Surgery

There are risks of post-surgical complications associated with an ostomy, including bleeding, ostomy obstructions, parastomal hernia and dehydration.

Recovery lasts about eight weeks, so proper education and care following an ostomy are essential. You’ll stay on a liquid diet immediately after your procedure and slowly introduce soft, easily digestible foods.

You can eat normally after a time but may find certain foods affect your digestive tract differently. Gas, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and urine odor are common.

You may bathe normally with a stoma, but showering is a more sanitary option if your wound is still healing. You shouldn’t lift heavy objects and only exercise per your doctor’s advice.

Caring for an Ostomy

The stoma does not have muscle around it, so you can’t control bowel movements or urination, depending on the type of ostomy. Keep the pouch half full to avoid leaks and bulges in the bag. You’ll need to empty the pouch one to three times daily and attach a new pouch at least once a week.

Here are some care tips for emptying and cleaning an ostomy bag:

  • Stand next to or sit on the toilet while you unclamp the pouch, holding the tail shut.
  • Unfold the tail and empty the bag into the toilet.
  • Rinse the pouch and wipe the inside and outside clean.
  • Place the clamp’s bar across the pouch tail and press until the clamp locks.
  • Replace the ostomy bag if you find any leaks or tears.

How Skilled Nursing Can Help You Manage an Ostomy

Skilled nursing offers dedicated wound and ostomy care to optimize your rehabilitation. An ostomy nurse will teach you how to manage your dressings and clean and change your pouches.

You’ll have access to other medical services, such as pain management and vital monitoring, to track your progress and reduce the likelihood of rehospitalization.

Skilled nursing staff can also connect you with ostomy support groups and resources to help you adjust to your device and lifestyle changes.

Embassy Healthcare offers 24-hour skilled nursing services for ostomy conditions. You’ll have access to wound care, nutrition and dietary counseling and other clinical services to support your recovery. Call 216-378-2050 or contact us online for more information.