24 February 2021
All about stomas
If you have Crohn’s or Colitis you may have read or heard about patients with stomas and wonder if all patients need one.
What is a stoma?
As with so many medical terms, the word Stoma is derived from Greek and means opening, or mouth. In surgical terms stoma refers to the bowel that is brought to the abdominal (belly) wall surface.
Will I need a stoma?
Depending on the disease process it may be small bowel or colon that is delivered to the surface. Not all abdominal operations for inflammatory bowel disease result in a stoma, and not all patients need them. A stoma tends to be more likely in emergency cases whereby an anastomosis (connection between 2 ends of excised bowel) is at a high risk of falling apart. It is best to think of a stoma in one of 2 ways: either as a safety measure, and potentially reversible in the future; or a means of permanent exteriorisation of bowel, hence removing the anus as a means of excretion.
What if I need a stoma?
Ultimately the decision for a stoma (or not) is largely driven by your treating team of expert gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons. Rest assured the decision is not taken lightly, and takes into account the type of surgery required, your quality of life, and most importantly, your longterm health and surgical safety.
Should it be required, your surgeons and experienced nursing staff with expertise in stoma management and care are at hand to assist you. It is not uncommon for patients return to clinic on follow up saying “… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!”
Contributed by Dr TC Sia