What is an ostomy?
Ostomy surgery is a procedure where bodily waste is rerouted from its usual path to pass through a stoma on the abdomen into a ‘pouch’ or ‘ostomy bag’ outside the body. This treatment can be used by your doctor for a variety of disorders and diseases: congenital disabilities, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, incontinence, cancer, gastroparesis, and more. A surgeon may also place an ostomy because of abdominal or pelvic trauma. An ostomy can be temporary or permanent.
How do I care for my ostomy?
Having an ostomy can be a great option for many, but it also takes some care to maintain! Dr. Julie Sanchez, a pediatric and general surgeon, shares her general tips and practices for taking care of your ostomy.
It is important to take good care of your skin, especially during the first few weeks of getting your new ostomy.
- Cleaning the area with soap and water is sufficient for most. You can also try EasiCleanse Bath (non-rinse, disposable washcloth) or Vashe Wash.
- Avoid using soaps with lotion, creams, powders, or ointments.
- Seek attention from your healthcare provider or stoma nurse if any skin breakdown or irritation develops.
Secure your skin barrier
It is essential to make sure your skin barrier fits properly around the stoma and stays securely in place, especially during physical activities. An ostomy belt can be useful in this setting.
Be careful during removal
Be patient when removing your appliance to avoid potential skin-stripping, which could lead to irritation, pain, leaks, and infection. If you notice that the skin is sensitive, please notify your stoma nurse or healthcare provider before applying ointments or creams. A belt can also assist in taking some of the pressure off the stoma site.
Listen to your “pouch”
Think of your “pouch” as a window to your digestive system.
- If you notice excess gas in the pouch, decrease gas-producing foods, such as broccoli, cabbage, onions, beans, or carbonated drinks.
- If you notice excess odor, avoid or minimize foods such as eggs, cauliflower, garlic, fish, brussel sprouts, and asparagus.
- If you experience watery stool, consider thickening your output by eating the “BRAT” diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, or toast. You can also try eating marshmallows or adding pectin to your food. It is essential to stay hydrated. If the watery output continues, notify your healthcare provider.
People with a colostomy (stoma in the large intestine) are more prone to constipation than those with an ileostomy. Constipation can be due to dairy, low fiber, refined sugars, processed foods, or decreased water intake. Medications that slow transient time can also cause constipation.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Watch for signs of intestinal blockage
Intestinal blockage can be a life-threatening condition. It can occur with food blockage, or from scar tissue such as adhesions. Symptoms of blockage include:
- crampy abdominal pain
- lack of stool output
- gas in the pouch
If you develop any signs or symptoms of intestinal blockage, you MUST seek immediate medical attention!
Do you have any personal tips or suggestions for ostomy care? Do you have questions about your ostomy care? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Julie Sanchez
Dr. Julie Sanchez is a general & pediatric surgeon in Austin, Texas. She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, completed her residency in general surgery at SUNY Brooklyn/Kings County Hospital, and her pediatric trauma fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. She is part of a successful surgical practice in Austin, TX, affiliated with Dell Children’s Hospital, and an affiliate professor at UT Dell Medical School. Dr. Sanchez is a co-founder of Abilitee Adaptive Wear.