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Media last reviewed: 21/02/2013

Next review due: 21/02/2015

The Colostomy Association

The Colostomy Association is the leading charity for people in England who are living with a colostomy.

Its website provides a range of useful information, plus a selection of products that you may find useful. It also contains details of local support groups.

A colostomy is formed during surgery to divert a section of the large intestine (colon) through an opening in the abdomen (tummy).

The opening is known as a stoma. A pouch is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that would usually pass through the colon and out of the body through the rectum and anus (your back passage).

A colostomy can be permanent or temporary.

It is estimated that around 6,400 permanent colostomies are carried out each year in the UK.

Why a colostomy may be needed

A colostomy usually needs to be formed when there is a problem with an area of the colon. Some of the most common reasons for forming a colostomy include:

  • bowel cancer
  • Crohn's disease – a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system
  • diverticulitis – a condition that causes small pouches to develop in the wall of the colon, called diverticula, which become infected and inflamed

A colostomy diverts digestive waste away from the affected areas of the colon to give them a chance to heal. In some cases, a colostomy is formed after a section of the colon has been removed.

Read more about why a colostomy is used.

Types of colostomy

There are two main ways a colostomy can be formed. They are:

  • a loop colostomy – where a loop of colon is pulled out through a hole in your abdomen, before being opened up and stitched to the skin
  • an end colostomy – where one end of the colon is pulled out through a hole in your abdomen and stitched to the skin

Loop colostomies tend to be temporary and require a further operation at a later date to reverse the procedure. It is also possible to reverse an end colostomy, but this is less common.

You will usually have to stay in hospital for 3-10 days after a colostomy or colostomy reversal. 

Read more about how colostomies are performed, colostomy reversal and recovering from a colostomy.

Living with a colostomy

If you need to have a colostomy formed, you may initially be concerned that your day-to-day activities will be restricted and that others will notice you are wearing a colostomy bag.

However, modern colostomy equipment is discreet and secure and there is no reason why you should not be able to do the activities you enjoyed before, without experiencing the symptoms that made it necessary in the first place.

Adjusting to life with a colostomy can be challenging, but most people become accustomed to it over time.

You will usually see a specialist stoma nurse before and after having a colostomy formed, although you may not be able to see them before the procedure if it is carried out in an emergency. Specialist stoma nurses can offer support and advice to help you adapt to life with a colostomy.

Read more information about living with a colostomy and complications of a colostomy.

Page last reviewed: 03/06/2013

Next review due: 03/06/2015


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The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

sanb70 said on 19 January 2014

I have had my colostomy since may 2013, it was abit of a surprise being told i needed one or i was going to die as my bowel had perforated. I was operated on straight away and woke up with my bag, the reason I'm writing this is that ive read a lot of negative things to do with colostomy's and yes it is difficult learning to be abit different from other people but the bags can be sorted out and you can get creams to help if you have a sore tummy, but if I didnt have one i would not be here so i celebrate mine and have tried to make it part of my life. I don't hide it from people as I'm not ashamed of it, my biggest worry now is weather to have it reversed. I just hope this helps if anyone reading this has been told they have to have a colostomy it really is not as bad as some people say, maybe I'm just lucky that I feel this way.

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spikeh said on 03 September 2013

The advice given when I was discharged was extremely minimal to say the least. The bags I was given didn't stick properly, but after a period of time I found an over the counter brand through searching the internet. These I have found to be very good and they do stick. Having experienced severe complication which resulted in the removal of my stomach wall due to gangrene, I needed a support belt, initially help/advice was in short supply but eventually I got one that partially serves the purpose. I have now had a colostomy for just over a year and try extremely hard to live life to the full, or there abouts. It's now a fact of life that I have get on with, I eat every thing and have only had problem with rice which I now steer clear of, but may try again in the future. Curry without rice it's cruel, but never mind.

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fad84 said on 02 May 2013

i have had a colostomy now for 23 years and it has took a long time for me to find the right bag and flang iam now 28 and i have had a 2 peace since i was 14 with the 2 peace i find it alot better than an all in one i found them not good at all. And the thing about your skin i would sugest e45 cream after every bath and wait for it to dry befor putting the device back on sorry for any miss spelling

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xwateverx said on 24 March 2013

I notice that as usual the NHs fails to take into account that supplies are hard to come by unless you carry your own supply with you, even hospitals dont carry spares in case you have problems and get caught short while out and about. They dont say that the manufacturers screw around with the glue that holds the bags onto the skin, to save money they reduce the strength so when full they can fall off without warning. They also dont say to start protecting the skin around the colosotmy asap or else with the removal of bags it will tear holes in the skin, for this you need duoderm skin to act as a barrier. If you have to have a colostomy, get on the net and ask others that have one, you will get better advice than you will from the NHS.

(I bet you wont post this)

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