Surgery to form a stoma

A procedure to divert the small intestine through an opening in your abdomen

What is an ileostomy?

An ileostomy stops waste passing through the entire digestive system. It's reasonably common and can help the small intestine or colon heal after surgery, such as during bowel cancer treatment.

It may also relieve inflammation caused by Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, or enable rectal or anal surgery.

Need to know

  • What happens during surgery? icon plus

    An ileostomy is a procedure to form a stoma from the small intestine. It's usually carried out under a general anaesthetic so you'll be asleep.
    - Loop stomas bring a loop of bowel to the surface, which is held in place with stitches. Usually temporary, this forms a double opening, although only the upper part produces waste.
    - End stomas usually involve the removal of the whole colon through a cut in your abdomen. The end of the small intestine is brought to the surface. This is usually permanent.
    - Ileo-anal pouches are sometimes possible. Created from the ileum, they're joined to the anus, so waste material passes out of your body in the normal way.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Your consultant will explain the procedure to you beforehand and answer any questions you may have. If you're having a general anaesthetic, they'll also advise how long to avoid eating and drinking prior to your operation.

    It's possible, especially if you're having a temporary stoma, that your ileostomy may be carried out at the same time as another operation, for example to remove part of your bowel. You'll be advised how to prepare for your specific procedure beforehand.
  • After surgery icon plus

    A special bag will be fitted on the stoma to collect digestive waste. You can expect to stay in hospital for up to five to seven days after an ileostomy operation. During this time, a specialist nurse will teach you how to look after your stoma.

    It can be difficult learning to adjust to living with a stoma. However, you will probably find, like most people with stomas, that you adapt into a new routine, and there is a lot of support available.

    Overall, your quality of life may improve significantly, especially if you've had a bowel disease, chronic constipation or bowel incontinence.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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