A colostomy surgery (ostomy) creates a way for stool to be removed from the body when part of the colon is removed. In this procedure, a stoma (an opening) is made to the outside of the body and an ostomy pouch is placed around the stoma to collect and remove waste. A colostomy can be temporary and reversed, or be permanent.

Whether temporary or permanent, an ostomy creates a new path for your body’s waste through a stoma (leading your colon directly through an opening in your abdomen). An ostomy pouch fastens to the skin to collect waste. Whether the ostomy is temporary or permanent, people with ostomies can learn to live as fully as everyone else.

Before You Leave the Hospital

Before you leave the hospital with a stoma, an ostomy nurse should show you how to:

  • empty and replace the pouch
  • carefully care for and clean the skin around your stoma
  • manage your diet and daily activities
  • identify problems that deserve a call to the doctor

Be patient if it takes time to get used to dealing with your pouch, or if you need to try a few different kinds until you find the one that works for you.

Tips for living with an ostomy

  • Ask if there’s an ostomy nurse who can help you at home after surgery
  • Ask how to recognize potential problems before they occur
  • If your pouch is uncomfortable, ask about alternative pouching systems
  • For extra support and information, contact a local ostomy organization

Recommended Ostomy Organizations & Resources

Content medically-reviewed by members of the Fight Colorectal Cancer Medical Advisory Board, February 2014