What Are the Most Common Ostomy Complications?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Ostomy complications are relatively rare as long as the patient follows the proper guidelines for care as issued by the medical staff and keeps all doctor's appointments as scheduled. Irritation on and around the surgical site is the most commonly reported complication and is usually easy to remedy. More serious ostomy complications may include the development of a hernia or skin infection. Conditions known as mucocutaneous separation or stoma stenosis are also possible. Any questions or concerns about individual ostomy complications should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Skin irritation or the development of a skin infection are among the most common ostomy complications. Mild skin irritation frequently occurs and can usually be treated by maintaining cleanliness and using over-the-counter topical creams or ointments. Redness, swelling, or discharge coming from the stoma site may indicate the presence of an infection. Oral and topical antibiotics are generally sufficient in treating mild infections, although more serious infections may require a brief stay in the hospital. Occasionally, additional surgery may become necessary if the infection spreads to other areas of the body.


Hernias may sometimes occur as ostomy complications. A hernia occurs when a portion of the intestines protrudes through a hole in the abdominal wall. Surgical intervention is often necessary to repair a hernia in order to prevent more severe complications from occurring. This type of surgery usually involves the placement of a mesh material between the intestine and the abdominal wall in an effort to hold the bowel in the proper position.

Additional ostomy complications may include mucocutaneous separation or stoma stenosis. Mucocutaneous separation occurs when the skin surrounding the stoma does not heal properly and begins to tear away from the stoma. In stoma stenosis, the opening to the stoma becomes narrow, causing the stool to become difficult to pass through. Surgery is typically required to treat both of these conditions.

With proper patient education, many ostomy complications can be avoided. The medical staff will instruct the patient on how to properly care for the stoma and surrounding areas. Any questions or difficulties should be reported to a doctor right away so that complications such as irritation and infection do not occur. Even with proper care, some ostomy complications are possible. For this reason, any new or persistent problems should be discussed with a doctor so that individual concerns can be addressed and treated as promptly as possible.


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