You had an injury or disease in your digestive system and needed an operation called an ileostomy. The operation changed the way your body gets rid of waste (stool, feces, or poop).
Now you have an opening called a stoma in your belly. Waste will pass through the stoma into a pouch that collects it. You will need to take care of the stoma and empty the pouch several times a day.
What to Expect at Home
Stool that comes from your ileostomy is thin or thick liquid. It is not solid like the stool that came from your rectum. You must take care of the skin around the stoma.
You can still do normal activities, such as traveling, playing sports, swimming, doing things with your family, and working. You will learn how to take care of your stoma and pouch as part of your daily routine. Your ileostomy will not shorten your life.
What Does an Ileostomy Do?
An ileostomy is a surgically made opening on the skin of the belly. An ileostomy replaces the rectum as the place where waste of the digestive system (stool) leaves the body.
Most often the colon (large intestine) absorbs most of the water that you eat and drink. With an ileostomy in place, the colon is no longer being used. This means that the stool from your ileostomy has far more liquid than a typical bowel movement from the rectum.
The stool now comes out from the ileostomy and empties into a pouch that is attached to the skin around your stoma. The pouch is made to fit your body well. You must wear it all the time.
The waste that collects will be liquid or pasty, depending on what you eat, what medicines you take, and other things. Waste collects constantly, so you will need to empty the pouch 5 to 8 times a day.
The standard ileostomy is the most common kind of ileostomy that is done.
- The end of the ileum (part of your small intestine) is pulled through the wall of your abdomen.
- Then it is sewn to your skin.
- It is normal that the ileostomy bulges out an inch (2.5 centimeters) or so. This makes the ileostomy like a spout, and it protects the skin from being irritated from the stool.
Most times, the stoma is placed in the right lower part of the belly on a flat surface of normal, smooth skin.
Continent Ileostomy (Abdominal Pouch)
A continent ileostomy is a different type of ileostomy. With a continent ileostomy, a pouch that collects waste is made from part of the small intestine. This pouch stays inside your body, and it connects to your stoma through a valve that your surgeon creates. The valve prevents the stool from constantly draining out, so that you usually do not need to wear a pouch.
Waste is drained by putting a tube (catheter) through the stoma a few times each day.
Continent ileostomies are not done very often anymore. They can cause many problems that need medical treatment, and sometimes they need to be redone.
Ileostomy - types; Standard ileostomy; Brooke ileostomy; Continent ileostomy; Abdominal pouch; End ileostomy; Ostomy; Inflammatory bowel disease - ileostomy and your ileostomy type; Crohn disease - ileostomy and your ileostomy type; Ulcerative colitis - ileostomy and your ileostomy type
American Cancer Society website. Types of ileostomies and pouching systems. www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/surgery/ostomies/ileostomy/types.html. Updated October 16, 2019. Accessed February 2, 2023.
American Cancer Society website. Ileostomy guide. www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/ostomies/ileostomy.html. Updated October 16, 2019. Accessed February 2, 2023.
Raza A, Araghizadeh F. Ileostomy, colostomy, and pouches. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 117.
Review Date 10/1/2022
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.