Ileostomy Surgery Definition

Ileostomy – an operation in which the surgeon brings the end of the ileum, the final segment of the small intestine, through the abdominal wall to exit outside the body. A pouch fastens with adhesive to the skin around the ileostomal opening, or stoma, to collect digestive waste. The waste is significantly more watery than stool.

An ileostomy is necessary after total bowel resection (removal of the colon and rectum) such as to treat colon cancer, and may be temporary or permanent. An ileostomy is temporary when the surgeon can construct an ileoanal reservoir and permanent when this is not a viable option.

A variation that eliminates the need for ostomy bags is the continent ileostomy, in which the surgeon creates a collection pouch from a section of the ileum that remains inside the abdominal cavity. The surgeon sutures a valve in place that exits through the stoma. Periodically the person opens the valve to allow digestive waste to exit.

Many people find the adjustment to an ileostomy challenging. It represents a significant change to the body’s appearance and function. The ileostomy, however, need not interfere with the regular activities of life including athletic pursuits, job and career, and sexual activity. An ostomy-care specialist, usually a registered nurse, will provide education about caring for the ileostomy.


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