When there is an injury or health problem that impacts the digestive tract and you’re unable to pass stool on your own you may need a colostomy bag. If you or someone you love needs a colostomy bag, it’s natural to have questions about how they will work, as well as care instructions. A gastroenterologist can answer any and all questions, and alleviate concerns around getting a colostomy.
When is a colostomy needed?
A colostomy may be something that’s needed for only a short period while other individuals may require a colostomy bag for life. When the colon doesn’t work properly or the bowels need time to heal, a colostomy bag can ensure that stool passes through an opening in the colon and into the bag rather than through the anus. Conditions or health problems that may require a temporary colostomy include:
- Trauma or injury to the rectum, anus, or colon
- Bowel obstructions
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
A permanent colostomy may be necessary for advanced stages of colorectal cancer or untreatable fecal incontinence, or when part of the rectum or anus needs to be removed (often due to disease).
What is a colostomy?
A colostomy is a surgical procedure performed by a gastroenterologist or gastric surgeon in which they create an opening in the abdominal wall (known as a stoma) through which a colostomy bag can be connected. When stool passes through the colon it will no longer exit through the anus but instead through a colostomy bag.
Do I always have to wear my colostomy bag?
Today, clothes can very discreetly hide a colostomy bag so this shouldn’t be a problem and most people feel comfortable wearing their colostomy bag all the time for peace of mind; however, in some instances, you may be able to detect when you’re going to have a bowel movement, and you may decide to use your colostomy bags only during these times.
Can you reverse a colostomy?
If your colostomy was temporary, your gastroenterologist will discuss the reversal process with you. You will continue to come in for routine checkups and monitoring after your colostomy to determine the best time for a reversal. In most cases, it can take several years before a reversal surgery is performed and your health will be a determining factor in whether this surgery is right for you.
If you have questions about colostomy bags, how they work, or how to care for them, call your gastroenterologist today. They can provide you with the information you need to make living with a colostomy bag easier.