Living with an Ileostomy: Tips for Maintenance and Daily Living

Living with an Ileostomy can be a major change, but knowing what to expect and how to deal with it can help you adjust to it.

What is an Ileostomy?

An ileostomy is a surgical opening on the abdominal wall created to allow waste to leave the body when the colon or rectum cannot function properly. A part of the small intestine is brought through the skin of the abdomen. An ileostomy is a specific type of stoma. Other types include colostomy and urostomy.

If the surgical opening is created at the end of the small bowel (called the “ileum”) the stool will be a pasty consistency. If the opening is created higher in the small intestine the stool will pass through the stoma more quickly and the stool consistency will vary between pasty and liquid. An ileostomy may be temporary or permanent.

stoma: opening of the siteIf your ileostomy is temporary, it usually means all of your large intestine was removed but you still have at least part of your rectum. If you have surgery on part of your large intestine, your doctor may want the rest of your intestine to rest for a while. You will use the ileostomy while you recover from this surgery. When you do not need it anymore, you will have another surgery to reattach the ends of the small intestine, and you will no longer need the ileostomy. If your ileostomy is permanent, it usually means all of your large intestine and rectum have been removed.

To create the ileostomy, the surgeon makes a small surgical cut in the wall of your belly. Part of your small intestine that is farthest from your stomach is brought up and used to make an opening, called a stoma. When you look at your stoma, you are actually looking at the lining of your intestine. It looks a lot like the inside of your cheek.

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements or herbs you bought without a prescription. Before your surgery, talk with your doctor or nurse about the following things:

  • Intimacy and sexuality
  • Pregnancy
  • Sports
  • Work