What is a colostomy?

A colostomy is a surgically created opening from your large bowel to the surface of your abdomen.

A colostomy provides a new path for waste material to leave your body after part of the large bowel has been removed. This generally produces a formed stool, however this can vary.

Info: A colostomy is usually on the left-hand side of your body, but in some circumstances may be formed on the righthand side.


What are the different types of colostomy?

You will either have an end colostomy or a loop colostomy.

What is an end colostomy?

An end colostomy is formed when part of the large bowel and/or the rectum are removed. The remaining large bowel is brought out to the surface of the abdomen to create a stoma.

This can be temporary or permanent.

The digestive system:

  •   Large bowel
  •   Colostomy
  •   Rectum
  •   Anus
  •   Stoma


What happens if a temporary end colostomy is created?

If a temporary end colostomy is created, a diseased section of large bowel is removed, but the remaining bowel cannot be re-joined at the same time as it is unsafe or inappropriate for your surgeon to do this at this time.

However, it may be possible to re-join your large bowel in the future, and this can be discussed with your surgeon.

What is a loop colostomy?

A loop colostomy is usually created to protect a surgical join in the large bowel or to divert the flow of stool from an obstruction.

It is formed when a loop of the large bowel is brought to the surface of the abdomen and opened to form a stoma. This can be temporary or permanent.

A loop colostomy has two openings; only one of these will pass stool, the other may produce mucus.

A loop colostomy can be situated anywhere within the large bowel depending on your situation.

Common sites are pictured on the diagram.

Two common sites where you may find loop colostomy situated

Loop colostomy diagram:

  •   Large bowel
  •   Transverse loop colostomy
  •   Sigmoid loop colostomy
  •   Rectum
  •   Anus
  •   Stoma

Why am I having a colostomy?

Your operation may need to be performed for a variety of reasons and your surgeon and Specialist Nurse will explain these to you.

There are a number of different diseases and conditions that can result in the need for a colostomy, such as:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Diverticular Disease
  • Faecal incontinence
  • Cancer
  • Trauma
  • Radiation damage
  • Congenital abnormalities

What will my colostomy look and feel like?

Your colostomy may be flat to your abdomen or it may stand out slightly. It will be soft to touch, pinkish-red in colour and moist; rather like the inside of your mouth.

There is no sensation in the stoma, so it is not painful. However, it has a rich blood supply and it is normal for it to bleed a little from time to time, especially when cleaning.

Your colostomy is likely to be swollen at first and will take a few weeks to reduce in size.

There will be small stitches around the edge of your colostomy, which will either be dissolvable or your Stoma Care Nurse will remove them 1-2 weeks after your operation.

End Colostomy

Loop Colostomy

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Helpful videos to prepare you for your colostomy operation

We have created a series of ‘how to’ video guides for people living with a colostomy. These videos are available to view and download.

View videos

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What to expect after your stoma surgery

Find out more information about what you can expect after your stoma surgery including; how your stoma works, how to change a stoma bag, taking care of your skin and much more.

After stoma surgery

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