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What is a Colostomy?

Damage to the colon can be addressed by a colostomy.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Colostomies are surgical procedures that are utilized when there is a problem with the function of the colon. A colostomy may be a temporary measure that allows a damaged colon time to heal, or be a means of creating a permanent alternative means of allowing the functions normally handled by the colon to continue. With a colostomy, this means the establishment of an opening in the abdominal wall that is usually referred to as a stoma.

The basic procedure for a colostomy involves connecting part of the existing colon to the anterior section of the abdominal wall. This connection makes it possible to create the opening or stoma that will allow for the expression of feces from the body through this artificially created opening. The stoma is created at the end of the large intestine and is sutured in place. On the exterior, a colostomy bag is used to catch the expelled feces.

When the colostomy is performed as a temporary measure, this usually means the colon has gone through a trauma and is expected to be able to resume normal functionality within a reasonable period of time. The trauma may be due to an operation or an accident that led to bruising of the colon. If doctors determine that no permanent damage has taken place, the colostomy may simply be a means of allowing the colon to rest and recuperate.

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If portions of the colon are removed due to some type of permanent damage, however, the colostomy may be permanent. In these situations, the colon is not expected to recover and be able to take over the responsibilities of eliminating waste from the body without some type of assistance. When this is the case, the patient will often receive some type of counseling, as well as instruction in how to properly make use of a colostomy bag and dispose of the contents.

While there is often an assumption the colostomy bags carry a great deal of odor and are difficult to manage, that is not the case. The bags used today by colostomy patients usually fit comfortably under clothing and are odor free. Special tape that is latex free is used to secure the bag to the stoma, creating an air tight seal. The contemporary structure of the bags make it possible for persons to lead normal lives without concerns about leakage, odor, or other problems.

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