After ostomy surgery you may have many questions and concerns ranging from physical to social challenges you may encounter. It can be overwhelming to face a “new normal” with an ostomy appliance on your abdomen. However, taking things one step at a time is important. Trying to approach the situation in a positive manner and not rushing the recovery process is of utmost importance. 

Stoma surgery recovery process

It might take around two months for your stoma to recover fully. At first, you may not be able to accomplish your usual daily routine because your body is still recovering and undergoing physical changes. It is important to rest during the recovery period.. This does not mean you have to be in bed all the time; rather that you may have to take things more slowly and exercise caution. Being mobile can be helpful in the recovery process. However, rushing and overexerting yourself too quickly t will strain your body and slow down recovery. 

Life in the next 3 months after your stoma surgery

The recovery process will take time. Learning about the postoperative period after ostomy surgery can be helpful.

  • Hospital stay

Right after the procedure, you will have an intravenous or IV infusion attached to your arm. It will administer a controlled amount of fluid and medication to your bloodstream for a few days. You may also have a nasogastric tube (NG tube) that all the stomach contents to be removed in order to let your intestines and digestive system rest. 

Healthcare workers will change your wound’s dressing frequently to avoid contamination during the first few days. They will also remove your NG tube once advised by the physician. After it’s removed you may begin to start oral intake as advised by the physician. You will start with a fluid diet and progress from there. Try to keep eating, drinking, and walking as prescribed while waiting for gas, stool, or urine to come out of your stoma. 

You may experience colic or gas pains as you wait for your stoma to function. This is normal for new ostomates.

Once your stool starts coming out of your stoma, you may experience constipation or erratic output. The stool’s texture might be watery and soft. However, this usually doesn’t last long since your bowel movements will start to become more predictable. To monitor your stool and stoma, your ostomy nurse will place a lightweight and clear bag over your opening. 

You can expect your urine to be light pink and also contain blood. This symptom usually happens to recover urostomy patients. The bleeding will typically subside a month after surgery, but if it persists longer than a month, it’s best to consult your physician.

  • Home stoma care

Some surgery-related challenges can happen after you go home. These include blockage, constipation, or dehydration. It is essential to take extra precautions in the first three months after your surgery. Following the recommendations below will decrease your chances of complications and improve your quality of life:

  • Regularly inspect your stoma

Your stoma will shrink after surgery, you should measure its size once a week for the next two months. Your ostomy appliance needs a skin barrier that sits comfortably on your abdomen to avoid leaks and prevent skin irritation. By measuring the size of your stoma, it will allow you to choose the best-fitting wafer.  

  • Monitor your diet

You can generally resume a normal diet after three months, with the approval of your physician. However, professionals recommend a low residue diet for the first three months to ease your bowel movement and not strain your stoma. You may also want to avoid hard-to-digest foods such as popcorn or celery seeds. 

  • Avoid strenuous activities

In the immediate post-operative period and in the first few weeks after, you might feel weak and find it challenging to move around. Gradually, your strength will return as your body heals. While you wait, it’s best to refrain from physical activities that can cause abdominal discomfort. Movements like lifting, pushing, or digging may lead to a hernia.

Stoma surgery terms you need to know

Getting acquainted with ostomy terms is part of adapting to the life of an ostomate. You will likely be using an appliance for an extended amount of time, so learning the terms within the first three months can help the adaptation process. Here are some ostomy terms that are helpful to know:

  • Stoma 

Since you’ve undergone stoma surgery, you’ll often be hearing the term “stoma”, the new path for your waste. The placement and type of opening may also depend on your procedure. Here are three types of ostomies that can affect how your stoma looks:

  • Colostomy

Generally, ostomates that had a colostomy have a part of the colon pulled through their abdominal wall. That part becomes their stoma. However, the opening may either be an end or loop type. 

In an end colostomy, one end of the lower bowel is pulled and sewn on the abdomen. The remaining parts of the bowel may either be left to heal or removed completely. If it’s still intact, doctors can connect the ends again once it’s healed. 

In a loop colostomy, surgeons create an incision in a looped portion of the colon then sew it together with a rod to the abdomen, forming the stoma. This procedure is usually done in emergencies. It might be temporary and reversible after a few weeks or months. 

  • Ileostomy

Ileostomies are similar to colostomies and can have a loop or end opening, but instead of the colon, the procedure involves your small intestine. Therefore, the stoma will look similar to an ostomate who had a colostomy, but it will have a different placement — typically on the lower right side of the abdomen. 

  • Urostomy

Urostomies are different from ileostomies and colostomies. Surgeons will detach ureters from the bladder and attach them to a small piece of the bowel. Then, they will sew the piece to the abdomen to form a stoma. Additionally, urostomy surgeries are typically permanent, which means that the stoma can’t be reversed.

  • Pouching system

A pouching system is a medical device that collects the output from the stoma. During your hospital stay, you may receive a pouching system that might fit all types of stomas. But after you get home, you can test other systems and find out which suits your needs the best. 

There are two types of pouching systems: one-piece or two-piece. A one-piece system comes as a single unit where the wafer and pouch are together. For a two-piece system, the bag is detachable from the barrier. 

  • Skin barrier

A wafer is the adhesive part of your appliance that sits on your stoma. Its main purpose is to protect your skin around your stoma from the output, it also holds your pouching system in place. 

  • Stoma bag

An ostomy bag catches waste from your stoma. And since your output volume or type may differ, your kind of pouch depends on your operation. If you have had a colostomy or ileostomy, then ileostomy or colostomy bags are for you. These have a clip at the bottom where you can drain stool. On the other hand, urostomy bags have a small tap at the bottom and have an anti-reflux valve to keep your urine from flowing back to your stoma. 

  • Catheter

A catheter is a tube that you can insert into the bladder. Using a catheter allows the urine to flow into the drainage bag.. Depending on your health situation, you may need to use this tool for an extended period of time.

Get help for your stoma surgery recovery

You are not alone in your ostomy journey. If you need help taking care of your stoma, you can consult a healthcare professional such as your ostomy nurse. They are trained to address your unique healthcare needs as an ostomate and can help you with:

  • Bladder management
  • Bowel management
  • Stoma care
  • Catheter care
  • Continence care

You might also face emotional challenges. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, angry, or sad for a prolonged period, you can turn to support groups for psychological assistance. Organizations like the United Ostomy Associations of America and the American Cancer Society can help you find a group of ostomates, caregivers, and medical professionals within your area.    

Better Health is here to assist you. If you want to learn more about ostomy, need product recommendations, or have insurance concerns, you can consult one of our experts. Call 415-475-8444 today.

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