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Ostomy Help


Key Ostomy Terms 

This section covers terminology in two primary areas: types of ostomies and continent procedures, and types of pouching systems with the major accessories and supplies. The reader should be sure to "know your ostomy." This is critical information to provide any caregiver. The sections on types of pouches and accessories are intended to accelerate the new ostomates' usage of the terminology and to teach that alternative systems and accessories exist. You are not locked into any pouching system. If you are having trouble with any pouch, consult your ostomy nurse, caregiver or ostomy product supplier. Be receptive to trying a different type or brand of pouching system.

Types of Ostomies and Continent Procedures

The terms ostomy and stoma are general descriptive terms that are often used interchangeably though they have different meanings. An ostomy refers to the surgically created opening in the body for the discharge of body wastes. A stoma is the actual end of the ureter or small or large bowel that can be seen protruding through the abdominal wall. The most common specific types of ostomies are described below.


The surgically created opening of the colon (large intestine) which results in a stoma. A colostomy is created when a portion of the colon or the rectum is removed and the remaining colon is brought to the abdominal wall. It may further be defined by the portion of the colon involved and/or its permanence.

Temporary Colostomy

Allows the lower portion of the colon to rest or heal. It may have one or two openings (if two, one will discharge only mucus).

Permanent Colostomy

Usually involves the loss of part of the colon, most commonly the rectum. The end of the remaining portion of the colon is brought out to the abdominal wall to form the stoma.

Sigmoid or
Descending Colostomy

The most common type of ostomy surgery, in which the end of the descending or sigmoid colon is brought to the surface of the abdomen. It is usually located on the lower left side of the abdomen.

Transverse Colostomy

The surgical opening created in the transverse colon resulting in one or two openings. It is located in the upper abdomen, middle or right side.

Loop Colostomy

Usually created in the transverse colon. This is one stoma with two openings; one discharges stool, the second mucus.

Ascending Colostomy

A relatively rare opening in the ascending portion of the colon. It is located on the right side of the abdomen.



A surgically created opening in the small intestine, usually at the end of the ileum. The intestine is brought through the abdominal wall to form a stoma. Ileostomies may be temporary or permanent, and may involve removal of all or part of the entire colon.

Ileoanal Anastomosis

This is now the most common alternative to the conventional ileostomy. Technically, it is not an ostomy since there is no stoma. In this procedure, the colon and most of the rectum are surgically removed and an internal pouch is formed out of the terminal portion of the ileum. An opening at the bottom of this pouch is attached to the anus such that the existing anal sphincter muscles can be used for continence. This procedure should only be performed on patients with ulcerative colitis or familial polyposis, and who have not previously lost their rectum or anus. It is also called J-pouch, pull-thru, endorectal pullthrough, pelvic pouch, or a combination of these terms.

Continent Ileostomy

This surgical variation of the ileostomy is also called a Kock pouch. A reservoir pouch is created inside the abdomen with a portion of the terminal ileum. A valve is constructed in the pouch and a stoma is brought through the abdominal wall. A catheter or tube is inserted into the pouch several times a day to drain feces from the reservoir. This procedure has generally been replaced in popularity by the ileoanal pouch. A modified version of this procedure called the Barnett Continent Ileal Reservoir is performed at a limited number of facilities.



This is a general term for a surgical procedure which diverts urine away from a diseased or defective bladder. The ileal or cecal conduit procedures are the most common urostomies. Either a section at the end of the small bowel (ileum) or at the beginning of the large intestine (cecum) is surgically removed and relocated as a passageway (conduit) for urine to pass from the kidneys to the outside of the body through a stoma. It may include removal of the diseased bladder.

Continent Urostomy

There are two main continent procedure alternatives to the ileal or cecal conduit (others exist). In both the Indiana and Kock Pouch versions, a reservoir or pouch is created inside the abdomen with a portion of either the small or large bowel. A valve is constructed in the pouch and a stoma is brought through the abdominal wall. A catheter or tube is inserted several times daily to drain urine from the reservoir.

Indiana Pouch

The ileocecal valve that is normally between the large and small intestines is relocated and used to provide continence for the pouch which is made from the large bowel. With a Kock Pouch version, which is similar to that used as an ileostomy alternative, the pouch and a special "nipple" valve are both made from the small bowel. In both procedures, the valve is located at the pouch outlet to hold the urine until the catheter is inserted.


Types of Pouching Systems

Pouching systems may include a one-piece or two-piece system. Both kinds include a faceplate/flange (barrier or wafer) and a collection pouch. The pouch (one-piece or two-piece) attaches to the abdomen by the faceplate/flange and is fitted over and around the stoma to collect the diverted output, either stool or urine. The barrier is designed to protect the skin from the stoma output and to be as neutral to the skin as possible.

Colostomy and
Ileostomy Pouches

Can be either open-ended, requiring a closing device usually called a clamp or tail clip; or closed and sealed at the bottom. Open-ended pouches are called drainable and are left attached to the body while emptying. Most commonly, closed end pouches are used by colostomates who can irrigate (see below), or by patients who have regular elimination patterns. Closed end pouches are usually discarded after one use.

Two-Piece Systems

Consist of a separate flange and pouch. The pouch contains a closing ring which mechanically attaches to a mating piece on the flange. The most common closure is a pressure fit snap ring, very similar to that used in TupperwareTM.

One-Piece Systems

As the name implies, are those in which the wafer and pouch are assembled together in one piece and not separate.

Both two-piece and one-piece pouches can be either drainable or closed.


Irrigation Systems

Some colostomates can "irrigate," using a procedure analogous to an enema. This is done to clean stool directly out of the colon through the stoma. This requires a special irrigation system, consisting of an irrigation bag with a connecting tube (or catheter), a stoma cone and an irrigation sleeve. A special lubricant is sometimes used on the stoma in preparation for irrigation. Following irrigation, some colostomates can use a stoma cap, a one- or two-piece system which simply covers and protects the stoma. This procedure is usually done to avoid the need to wear a pouch.


Urinary Pouching

Urostomates can use either one or two piece systems. However, these systems also contain a special valve or spout which adapts to either a leg bag or to a night drain tube connecting to a special drainable bag or bottle.


These are the major types of pouching systems. There are also a number of styles. For instance there are flat faceplates and convex shaped ones. There are fairly rigid and very flexible ones. There are faceplates with and without adhesive backing and with and without a perimeter of tape. The decision as to what particular type of system to choose is a personal one geared to each individual's needs. There is no right or wrong choice, but each person must find the system that performs best for him or her.


The larger mail-order catalogues will illustrate the types and styles from all or most of the suppliers. If you have any trouble with your current pouching system, discuss the problem with an ostomy nurse or other caregiver and find a system that works better for you. It is not uncommon to try several types until the best solution is found. Free samples are readily available for you to try. There is no reason to stay with a poorly performing or uncomfortable pouching system.


Types of Accessories

You may need or want to purchase certain pouching accessories. The most common items are listed below.

Convex Inserts

Convex shaped plastic discs that are inserted inside the flange of specific faceplates.

Ostomy Belts

Belts that wrap around the abdomen and attach to the loops found on certain pouches. Belts can also be used to help support the pouch or as an alternative to adhesives if skin problems develop. These usually add a measure of security.

Pouch Covers

Made with a cotton or cotton blend backing, easily fit over the pouch and protect and comfort the skin. They are often used to cover the pouch during intimate occasions.

Skin Barrier

Wipes and powder help protect the skin under the wafer and around the stoma from irritation caused by digestive products or adhesives. They also aid in adhesion of the wafer.

Skin Barrier Paste

Paste that can be used to fill in folds, crevices or other shape or surface irregularities of the abdominal wall behind the wafer, thereby creating a better seal.


Tapes are sometimes used to help support the flange or wafer (faceplate) and for waterproofing. They are available in a wide range of materials to meet the needs of different skin sensitivities.

Tape Remover

Tape remover is helpful in cleaning the adhesive that might stick to the skin after removing the tape or faceplate, or from other adhesives.

Psychosocial Issues


A. Patient�s Concerns about Surgery
The reaction to intestinal or urinary diversion surgery varies from one individual to the other. To some, it will be a problem, to other, a challenge; where one person considers its life-saving, another finds it a devastating experience. Each person will adapt or adjust in their own way and in their own time.


Body Image/Self-Esteem Concerns
Permanent and significant changes in the body�s appearance and functional ability may change the way the person internalizes their body image and self-concept.

Fear of loss is normal and facing any loss is difficult. What are patients giving up by having this operation? Is there any gain? How changed will they be? Such thoughts may lead to weeping or depression, or they may be denied.

It is important to understand the impact of the ostomy surgery on the patient�s change in self-image and how they perceive themselves. It may be accepted as the lesser of two evils, or they may refuse to acknowledge its existence, or may hold onto the belief that it is a temporary situation.

Within the rehabilitation process there are times that patients should have the opportunity to express or deny their feelings, about their surgery, the changes in their body or their self-image.


Self-Care Concerns
Patients have to be reassured that they will be taught self-care and that they will be able to master the management process. Basic anatomy and physiology should be explained to new patients, so they can better understand the extent of their surgery. Management options should be offered.

Patients should begin to assist the ostomy nurse with caring for the ostomy as soon as possible. Becoming involved in this process will begin to build confidence and help the patient to regain control of his situation.


Relationship Concerns
Patients may fear that their social role may be changed and that others may not accept them as in the past. One of the first concerns seems to be how to tell others about your surgery, who to tell and when.

� Patients should be prepared to explain their surgery with a few brief statements such as, �An ostomy is a surgical procedure for the diversion of bowel (or bladder).�

� They should understand that they do not have to tell everyone about the surgery. Be selective about who and how much to tell. It may be only to friends who will be supportive throughout the rehabilitation process.

Returning to the work place may present a concern about restroom facilities, interaction with co-workers, and feelings of being �watched.�

� Maybe a few of their co-workers may need to know in the event of an emergency.

� Employability and insurability are issues for some individuals. If these issues develop, seek help from healthcare professionals and/or talk with others who have found solutions to any of these issues.

Sexuality issues are common concerns for the new ostomate. Linked closely to our feelings of sexuality is how we think about ourselves and our body image.

� Any sexuality concerns that you have should be discussed between the patient and his partner. It is likely that the partner will have anxieties due to a lack of information. An intimate relationship is one in which it matters how well two people can communicate about the most personal of human functions, that is, bodily elimination and sex.

� Ostomy surgery may present more concerns for single individuals. When to tell depends upon the relationships. Brief casual dates may not need to know. If the relationship grows and leads to intimacy, the partner needs to be told about the ostomy prior to a sexual experience.


B. Phases of Psychological Adaptation
Almost every patient goes through four phases of recovery following an accident or illness that results in loss of function of an important part of the body. The patient, along with the family, goes through these phases, varying only in the time required for each phase. People may experience the various phases of adaptation in a different order and at varying rates. Some people may skip certain phases entirely and some may move up and down at different times.

These phases are shock, denial, acknowledgment and resolution.

1. Shock or Panic
Usually occurs immediately after surgery. The patient is unable to process information and may be tearful, anxious and forgetful. This phase may last from days to weeks.
2. Defense/Retreat/Denial
This phase may last for weeks or months and delays the adaptation process. During this phase, the individual denies or minimizes the significance of the event and defends himself against the implications of the crisis. You may note the avoiding of reality and �wishful� thinking.
3. Acknowledgment
As the patient moves to the next step of acknowledgment, he begins to face the reality of the situation. As you give up the existing old structure, you may enter into a period, at least temporarily, of depression, of apathy, of agitation, of bitterness, and of high anxiety.
4. Adaptation/Resolution
During this phase, the acute grief begins to subside. The patient copes with their situation in a constructive manner and begins to establish new structures. They develop a new sense of worth. This phase may take one to two years.

With the aid of an ostomy nurse and the ostomy visitor, you learn about living with a stoma.


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