Ostomy Society Canterbury - What is Ostomy? - Canterbury, New Zealand

What is Ostomy?

An ostomy is an opening created on the abdomen through the skin surface for the discharge of body waste. It replaces the usual system of disposal. An ostomy is created during surgery to maintain normal body function without a rectum, diseased or urinary bladder.

The opening is called a stoma - from the Greek word meaning mouth and body waste is released into a small bag, often called an appliance.

There are a number of different kinds of ostomy surgery, the three main types being ileostomy, urostomy (urinary diversion) and colostomy. The day-to-day care and maintenace is different for each type.

A stoma may be formed as a temporary measure, as part of other surgical procedures, and may be reversed after several weeks or months.

A person with an ostomy is often known as an ostomate. There are about 6,500 people with an ostomy in New Zealand, made up of colostomates (66%), ileostomates (21%) and urostomates (13%).


An Ileostomy is a surgically created opening into the small intestine through an opening in the abdomen. The end of the small intestine (ileum) is brought through the surgically created opening in the adominal wall and sewn, forming the stoma. The procedure usually invloves the removal or disconnection of the entire large intestine. In some cases part of the small intestine and/or the rectum may be removed as well.

Ilestomy surgery may be proposed for a number of reasons, but the most usual is in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (ulcerative colitis and crohn's disease). Here, may factors are taken into consideration including the severity and site of the disease, the failure of medical treatment, the presence of complications such as fistulae and the extent to which the disease interrupts daily life.


A urostomy is simply an artificial opening in the urinary tract on the body surface. On occasion, it may be a direct opening from the ureters or bladder, but by far the most commonest urostomy is the ileal conduit. This form or urninary diversion has been popular for many years as means of solving the problem of what to do when the bladder is lost through accident or disease or when it does not develop its normal function or control.

The ideal conduit uses a short segment of the small bowel, isolated from the bowel but with its blood supply intact, to provide a means of conveying urine from the ureters to the outside collecting applicance. To one end of this short piece of bowel the ureters are attached and the other end is brought through thr abdominal wall to form a stoma.


A colostomy is a surgical opening in the large bowel bringing it to the surface of the abdomen. The opening is usually made just below the navel to the left side and is called a stoma. It can be a small as a 10c piece or as large as a 50c piece, round or oval in shape, shiny, wet and dark pink in colour, similar to the inside lining of your mouth and occasionally bleeds a little; it will gradually shrink after surgery until it assumes a permanent size some weeks later. Although stomas are rich in blood vessels they do not transmit pain or other sensations and require little care. The stoma should be gently cleansed with plain soap and water at each applicance change. Water will not enter a stoma so it is not necessary to cover it during bathing or showering.

The reason you are a colostomate is generally because of cancer of the bowel, injury or accident or some bowel malfunction. It must be remembered that as a colostomate you can no longer dictate to the bowel, the bowel will work when it wishes. Instead of perhaps previously having one bowel movement per day, you will possibly find that there are now several smaller ones, indeed some colostomates find that eating and bowel activity are closely linked. In this, as in all aspects of life with a clostomy, each individual will settle their own unique pattern.

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