An ostomy is a life-saving surgical procedure that allows someone to eliminate bodily waste via an opening called a “stoma” that attaches to a pouch outside the body. This pouch collects stool and urine when normal bodily functions are impaired due to injury, illness or birth defect. There are three basic types of ostomies including colostomy, which removes part of the colon; ileostomy, which is similar to a colostomy but a lower part of the colon is removed; and Urostomy, which removes urine from your bladder. We’ll cover the basics of ostomy care, providing essential information and practical tips for new patients.
An ostomy procedure can save your life, but having ostomy surgery can be a challenging experience. Recovery times vary; consult your doctor or ostomy care team for essential information about your specific recovery needs.
Ostomy Care Right After Surgery – What to Expect
Regardless of what type of ostomy procedure you have, your surgery will result in a stoma – an opening that connects to a pouch outside your body. Caring for your stoma immediately after surgery and on an ongoing basis is critically important to your recovery and living with your condition. It’s important to realize that in time, you will be able to live life to the fullest in spite of your ostomy. But ensuring both your physical and emotional well-being as you heal is vital. Whether you are caring for a loved one after ostomy surgery or recovering yourself, caring for the stoma requires patience and consistency. Be sure to consult a healthcare expert for guidance regarding your ostomy and stoma recovery. The following are some general tips for patients recovering from an ostomy procedure:
Hospital Stay: Depending on your individual circumstances, your hospital stay for an ostomy procedure can range from three to 10 days.
Healing the Stoma: It’s not uncommon for your stoma to be swollen and tender for several weeks after surgery. Your abdomen will also be swollen and there may be some blood oozing from the stoma for several days. To aid healing, keep the stoma clean, and change pouches frequently, ensuring they are emptied regularly is crucial.
Waste Output: Output can range from three to five cups per day immediately after ostomy surgery and it will be mainly fluid for the first few days. After that, output will thicken. You will need to change the ostomy pouch six to eight times per day. Remember to change the pouch when it’s half full.
Diet: You should eventually be able to eat what you want, but for the first few days you should stick to easy-to-digest foods. Try refined grains like white bread and white rice, as well as low-fiber fruits and vegetables. It is also important that you get plenty of protein to aid in the healing process. Lean meats, eggs, nut butters like peanut and almond, and low-fat dairy foods are also good dietary choices.
Recovery Time: Recovery time varies and it will be important to consult your health professional as you heal. Complete recovery can take from six months to a year, although you will be up and around much sooner.
Caring for Your Stoma and Changing the Pouch
Finding the right pouch will also help you feel confident. Check out our article with helpful tips for selecting an ostomy pouch.
Your care team will show you how to change your pouch and care for your stoma. Here are some general steps:
- Make sure to gather your ostomy supplies: a new pouch (either 1 or 2-piece), a pouch clip, a pair of scissors, paper towels, stoma powder, stoma barrier paste, disposable skin wipes and a measuring device to track the size of your stoma. Please note: for the first six to eight weeks, the stoma will shrink in size. It’s important to have the size information to be able to connect the pouch securely.
- If you are able, you will want to change your pouch in the bathroom for convenience. Remove and empty your pouch in the toilet. Remove the pouch by pushing gently on the skin around the stoma while removing the pouch seal. Then seal the used pouch in a plastic bag before putting it in with other trash.
- After emptying the pouch and before changing to a new one, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Care for your stoma’s skin: clean with soap and water, then apply stoma powder or paste after it dries. Measuring the size of your stoma should allow you to fit the pouch securely.
- Follow the directions that come with your pouch to make sure it’s securely connected. The procedure for attaching a pouch will depend on whether it’s a one-piece or two-piece system. Contact your ostomy care team for comprehensive instructions. The United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA) website is also a good resource for information on changing an ostomy pouch.
When to Contact Your Doctor
Once your stoma is healing and you’ve mastered the task of changing your ostomy pouch, you should be well on the road to recovery. Yet, it’s important to be aware of issues that may require you to contact a physician, whether you are an ostomy patient or you are caring for a loved one. If any of the following situations occur, you should call a doctor:
- Stoma is bleeding profusely or you notice pus coming from it
- Stoma color or shape looks different
- Skin around the stoma is excessively swollen
- Blood in the patient’s stool
- Chills or fever higher than 100.4 degrees
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- Excessive abdominal pain or swelling
- No gas or stool from more than 4 hours
- Large increase of stool in the pouch
Emotional Support After an Ostomy
It’s important to acknowledge the significant emotional and psychological impact from an ostomy surgery. It is not unusual for ostomy patients to experience panic and stress about losing control over critical bodily functions. They may worry about how their lives will unfold as they deal with the realities of having a stoma and a pouch to deal with every day. It’s important for patients and caregivers to know that thousands of people who have had ostomy surgery are leading fulfilling lives. With time and patience, you or your loved one in care can lead a happy and fulfilling life despite challenges.
Many ostomy patients also find it helpful to join a support group with other ostomy patients. Your ostomy care team will likely be able to put you in touch with a support group near you. There are also online resources. The UOAA has a support group finder tool that can find a group near you. The following are some guidelines for dealing with emotional aspects of your ostomy as you continue to pursue your daily life.
Telling others about your ostomy: It’s important to understand that you don’t have to tell anyone about your ostomy, though you may choose to tell close relatives and associates. Support groups are especially helpful because you can talk about your condition with other ostomy patients. It’s a good idea to rehearse how you will talk about it and how much you want to say. If you want to avoid questions, it’s fine to tell others you don’t want to talk about it in detail. Guidelines for managing emotional aspects of your ostomy as you navigate daily life are provided below.
Attending social events and activities: It’s important to be prepared and control those aspects of events that you can. You should always do what makes you feel the most secure such as bringing extra clothes and supplies. Also, be aware of what you’re eating and make dietary and clothing choices that increase your confidence. If you have any questions about resuming a sport or physical activity, consult your doctor first. Be aware of special protective devices or undergarments that will let you pursue activities and still feel protected.
Addressing body image issues: It is normal to feel some stress and sadness over the changes to your body image and daily life resulting from ostomy surgery. It’s also important to remember that ostomy surgery is lifesaving and to try and appreciate the opportunity it has given you. Having an ostomy doesn’t change who you are. Try to think of yourself as a strong survivor rather than a victim. However, if you find that you, or the loved one you are caring for is feeling constantly depressed and anxious after an ostomy, you should consult a professional. An ostomy support group can also be invaluable in helping to adjust to life after an ostomy.
HonestMed Has the Ostomy Care Products You Need to Feel Confident
HonestMed understands how important having the right ostomy supplies is to dealing with your ostomy surgery on a daily basis. Building confidence and regaining control over daily activities is essential to having a fulfilling life after an ostomy. We offer affordable supplies and the expertise required to assist ostomy patients of all ages, ensuring both patients and caregivers can easily discover the products they need.
Visit the HonestMed website to find a full range of ostomy products that will help you pursue your daily activities and tasks with ease. Learn more by speaking to an HonestMed Care Specialist at (833) 933-2323. We’re here to provide you with product knowledge and support to ensure that you get the right products for your unique needs and budget.