Surgery: The Basics


Surgery: The Basics

Last updated 01/06/20

Surgery can improve your life

If you have a medical condition that has damaged a portion of your bladder, small intestine or large intestine, and is too damaged to recover on its own, your doctor may recommend stoma surgery.

This surgery can take a variety of forms depending upon your needs, but in general involves the removal of the damaged portion of the organ, and diversion of output to an opening on the outside of your abdomen. In most cases, this surgery will improve your general health and get you back to living a full life.

What is a stoma?

When you have stoma surgery, an opening called a stoma is created in the abdomen (belly). Your stoma provides an alternative way for waste materials to safely leave your body. The location of the stoma depends upon the type of surgery you need.[1] 

There are many common reasons for a stoma, including:[2]

  • Colon, bladder or rectal cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Inherited conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (a type of colorectal cancer passed down through families)
  • Birth anomalies
  • Penetrative wounds and other trauma to the abdomen
  • Spina bifida or other congenital conditions
  • Obstruction of the ureter

Depending on the disease or wound, a stoma may be temporary (to allow for healing and a return to normal elimination) or permanent.[2]  Your doctor will tell you whether your stoma will be temporary or permanent.

There are three primary types of stoma surgery:

One key lifestyle change after stoma surgery is that you will lose voluntary control of your bowel movements (colostomy or ileostomy) or urination (urostomy). While confronting at first, you’ll be provided with the tools and knowledge needed to quickly adapt to your new circumstances. These elimination processes will be contained by a discreet pouching system attached to your abdomen. Different pouching systems are available for different lifestyle needs.

It is very important to take proper care of your stoma and to make sure your pouching system fits correctly. 

Select your type of surgery above to learn:

  • What to expect and how to care for your stoma
  • How to deal with the passage of body waste through your stoma
  • How to care for the skin that surrounds the stoma, in order to avoid skin irritation and complications
  • How your chosen pouching system fits into your daily life





[1] An overview of the ostomy market and ConvaTec's ostomy model. Global Business Intelligence Analysis 2004. October, 2004. Data on file, ConvaTec.

[2] A-Malik R, Clarke N, Pearse I, Carlson GL. Intestinal and urological stomas: surgical aspects. In: Lyon CC, Smith AJ, eds. Abdominal Stomas and Their Skin Disorders: An Atlas of Diagnosis and Management. London, UK: Martin Dunitz; 2001:1-20