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What is a Stoma?


A stoma is created when a person undergoes a surgical procedure which results in a section of the bowel being brought to the surface of the abdominal wall.

The bowel is opened and formed into a stoma, which will discharge faecal matter or urine, depending upon the type of surgery. A collection pouch is fitted over the stoma to collect the material coming through this alternative elimination site.

  • People of all ages may require a stoma, from new born babies to the very elderly
  • The stoma may be permanent, but most are temporary
  • Stomas can be created anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, depending upon where the problem occurs
  • Most people learn to manage the daily care of the stoma as part of their usual hygiene routine
  • A return to a normal diet is to be expected
  • People with stomas can return to work, recreation, parenthood and travel – in fact, almost everything they would want to do
  • There is a governmental scheme to subsidise the equipment required
  • No-one else needs to know that there is a stoma

Reasons for the formation of a stoma include:

  • Trauma to the abdomen
  • Some cancers of the bowel, bladder or pelvic organs
  • Diseases such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Some uncommon familial disorders
  • Some neurological disorders where toileting is complicated
  • Degenerative changes in the bowel’s blood supply in preterm babies or the elderly
  • After-effects of some radiation therapy to the pelvis

A person who is likely to require a stoma is (ideally) seen by a Stomal Therapy Nurse (STN) pre-operatively. (The STN is a specialist nurse who is experienced in caring for people requiring this type of surgery.)

Preoperative discussion points:

  • what to expect in hospital
  • identification of where the stoma will be situated
  • management of the stoma
  • available support when returning home

Post-operatively, the STN will:

  • support the person and their family emotionally
  • teach the daily care of the stoma
  • assist the preparation for going home
  • arrange ongoing support and supplies in the community

Many well known people in the world have had, or still have, a stoma. It has been said that having a stoma is “a beginning, not an end” to life.

For many people the stoma gives a new lease of life, whilst for others it relieves some of the problems they have had. It is certainly lifesaving for many.

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