What is a Stoma?
A stoma is created when a person undergoes a surgical procedure which results in a section of the bowel being brought to the surface of the abdominal wall.
The bowel is opened and formed into a stoma, which will discharge faecal matter or urine, depending upon the type of surgery. A collection pouch is fitted over the stoma to collect the material coming through this alternative elimination site.
- People of all ages may require a stoma, from new born babies to the very elderly
- The stoma may be permanent, but most are temporary
- Stomas can be created anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, depending upon where the problem occurs
- Most people learn to manage the daily care of the stoma as part of their usual hygiene routine
- A return to a normal diet is to be expected
- People with stomas can return to work, recreation, parenthood and travel – in fact, almost everything they would want to do
- There is a governmental scheme to subsidise the equipment required
- No-one else needs to know that there is a stoma
Reasons for the formation of a stoma include:
- Trauma to the abdomen
- Some cancers of the bowel, bladder or pelvic organs
- Diseases such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
- Congenital abnormalities
- Some uncommon familial disorders
- Some neurological disorders where toileting is complicated
- Degenerative changes in the bowel’s blood supply in preterm babies or the elderly
- After-effects of some radiation therapy to the pelvis
A person who is likely to require a stoma is (ideally) seen by a Stomal Therapy Nurse (STN) pre-operatively. (The STN is a specialist nurse who is experienced in caring for people requiring this type of surgery.)
Preoperative discussion points:
- what to expect in hospital
- identification of where the stoma will be situated
- management of the stoma
- available support when returning home
Post-operatively, the STN will:
- support the person and their family emotionally
- teach the daily care of the stoma
- assist the preparation for going home
- arrange ongoing support and supplies in the community
Many well known people in the world have had, or still have, a stoma. It has been said that having a stoma is “a beginning, not an end” to life.
For many people the stoma gives a new lease of life, whilst for others it relieves some of the problems they have had. It is certainly lifesaving for many.