A colostomy is an opening made during surgery in the abdominal wall. It is needed when disease impacts a part of the colon, and it needs to be removed. The end of the colon (large intestine) is brought through this opening, called a stoma. The stoma replaces the anus as the exit of stool. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the problem. Temporary colostomies are common to allow the bowel to heal for diverticulitis, obstructions, or injury to the colon.
Reversal, or reconnecting the colon to the rectum, is an option after the bowel heals if the patient is healthy enough to undergo another surgery, the colon and rectum are sufficiently healthy to support bowel function, there is sufficient rectum remaining from the original surgery, and the bowel and anal sphincters are capable of controlling stool normally.
The best timing for a colostomy reversal is 3 to 12 months after surgery. That allows time for the colon to heal. Waiting too long may create muscle weakness by prolonged inactivity in the colon.
Risks of colostomy reversal surgery include:
- Stool leaking into the belly
- Bowel blockage
- Problems with urinating or sexual function due to nerve damage
- Temporary paralysis of the bowel