Around 100,000 ostomy surgeries are performed annually in the United States. During ostomy surgery, a part of the bowel is brought through the abdominal wall and secured on the surface of the abdomen. A surgically created opening on the surface of the abdomen that allows urine or stool to leave the body is known as a stoma. There are two types of ostomy: a colostomy (ostomy of the colon) and an ileostomy (an ostomy of the small intestine)
The most common medical conditions that require ostomy include:
- Colon cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Traumatic injury of the bowel or rectum
- Bowel perforation from a ruptured abscess or diverticulum
Many times, patients receiving an ostomy don’t receive much-needed pre-operative ostomy education and stoma fixing training. Whether there is no ostomy specialist available before your surgery or there has been no opportunity for pre-operative ostomy education or stoma sitting (for example, if your surgery was an emergency), you may find yourself discharged from the hospital with little to no ostomy management knowledge.
How to Teach the Ostomy Management to the Patient
Ostomy teaching is more than formal patient education. In real life, ostomy education happens on a more informal level, through every interaction with your ostomy nurse. If you have a caregiver (significant other or family member), training should include that person too.
In teaching, your nurse or ostomy specialist need to include basic information about ostomy. This information will help you adapt to living with an ostomy and understand that people with ostomies still can live full, productive lives.
The Basics of an Ostomy Management
Nowadays, most surgeries involve a short stay in the hospital. As an ostomy patient, you must be trained to empty your pouch before you are discharged from the hospital. There is no muscle around the stoma which means that you cannot control when body waste or gas leaves your body (the waste now goes directly from the stoma in a pouch around the stoma). The pouch blocks the odor of the waste and cannot be seen when you are wearing clothes.
You also need to have access to ongoing care and support. Follow-up care and learning to take care of your ostomy at home are essential to your treatment and safety.
Make sure to empty and replace your ostomy pouch as often as needed (follow your ostomy nurse’s recommendations). Inspect the skin under your pouch regularly. If the skin appears red, itchy, or irritated, gently remove the pouch, clean the skin with water and gently dry it. Sprinkle ostomy powder over the skin and replace the pouch. Talk to your ostomy nurse if you continue to have skin irritation.
Take your medications as prescribed and let your doctor know if you think you are having any problems with your medications.
Call your ostomy nurse or doctor immediately if you have belly pain, fever, you are vomiting, your stoma changes color or turns pale, swells or bleeds, or you cannot pass stools or gas.