A new ostomy can be a life changing event. Hopefully this information will help you adapt to your new lifestyle. If these frequently asked questions do not answer all of your questions be sure to contact an ostomy nurse. They are general guidelines. Your ostomy nurse may individualize them for you as needed.
What is a Colostomy?
A colostomy is an opening in the colon (large intestine). The opening is called a stoma and is made by pulling the intestine to the skin surface and stitching the edges of the intestine to the skin. The stoma surprisingly has no feeling. Your abdomen may be quite tender after surgery but the pain will go away over time.
What is a stoma?
The stoma is your intestine and it allows stool to exit your body. It is quite durable and with normal cleansing there is not a risk for infection. It is red, moist, and may bleed easily; this is normal. A new stoma is usually swollen and will reduce in size over the first few weeks after surgery.
How often will stool pass though?
Stool will function (pass) from the stoma once or twice each day. You probably will not feel the passage of stool and may be surprised at first when it functions or passes gas. It is normal and you will not be able to control it like someone who controls their rectum.
What does the stool empty into?
You will wear an ostomy appliance or pouch. Several types are available and your ostomy nurse will fit your colostomy with the proper one. After leaving the hospital the contours of your abdomen and stoma may change. If you are having difficulty with your wafer/pouch fitting properly or not wearing well contact the ostomy nurse. Don’t live with an ill-fitting pouch.
Who are the ostomy nurses?
The ostomy nurses of The Christ Hospital are graduates of The Cleveland Clinic School of Enterostomal Therapy and are certified as WOC Nurses through the national Wound Ostomy Continence Nurses Certification Board. They focus on providing clinical care and education for patients with ostomies.
The department number is 513-585--0871
Clean skin is an important part of your colostomy care. With new stomas a small amount of blood may be noted on the cloth. This is normal due to the stoma having a rich blood supply. When cleansing the stoma, use oil/moisturizer free soap and a soft cloth. Rinse the soap off the skin and pat dry. This will assist in obtaining a good seal between the skin and wafer. Always look at the skin when cleansing it. The skin should be without redness or irritation. The skin around the stoma should be level/smooth. Dips and creases in the skin can develop after surgery, resulting in difficult appliance wear time.
Burning or Itching Under Wafer
Stool can irritate the skin. Should you experience burning or itching underneath the wafer, change your ostomy appliance. Another cause of skin irritation is abdominal hair. Individuals with abdominal hair should use a safety razor and shave away from the stoma. This will prevent irritation to the hair follicles and provide you with a better appliance seal.
How often should I change the appliance?
Normally an ostomy appliance will be changed every 3-5 days. Showering and bathing can be done with your pouch on. If you are due to change your appliance, you may remove it to shower. Always select a time when your stoma is least active, before meals or first thing in the morning. After showering/bathing the tape may lift. Use a hair dryer on the cool setting and rub the tape down. This will allow the tape to re-adhere to the skin.
Minimize the amount of water that comes in contact with the inside of your appliance. You may feel a need to rinse the inside of your pouch. This is not necessary and can loosen the seal around your stoma. Some ostomates have reported removing the pouch (wafer stays on) during showering so they can “wash around the stoma”. This will also loosen the seal and decrease wafer wear time.
What if I have problems?
If you experience skin irritation or your ostomy appliance has to be changed more often than expected, call The Christ Hospital Wound Ostomy Continence Department at 513-585-0871. The ostomy nurses are available for questions or any issues you may have with ostomy care.