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An ileostomy is where the small bowel (small intestine) is diverted through an opening in the tummy (abdomen).
The opening is known as a stoma. A special bag is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that usually pass through the colon (large intestine) and out of the body through the rectum and back passage (anus).
Ileostomy procedures are relatively common in the UK. More than 9,000 are carried out each year in England.
Ileostomies are formed to either temporarily or permanently stop digestive waste passing through the full length of the small intestine or colon.
There are a number of reasons why this may be necessary, including:
Read more about why ileostomy procedures are carried out.
Before an ileostomy is formed, you'll normally see a specialist stoma nurse to discuss exactly where you'd like your stoma to be (usually somewhere on the right-hand side of the abdomen) and to talk about living with a stoma.
There are two main types of ileostomy:
Alternatively, it's sometimes possible for an internal pouch to be created that's connected to your anus (ileo-anal pouch). This means there's no stoma and stools are passed out of your back passage in a similar way to normal.
End ileostomies and ileo-anal pouches are usually permanent. Loop ileostomies are usually intended to be temporary and can be reversed during an operation at a later date.
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You may need to stay in hospital for up to two weeks after an ileostomy operation. During this time you'll be taught how to look after your stoma by a specialist stoma nurse.
Recovering from the procedure can be challenging. Many people experience short-term physical and psychological problems, ranging from skin irritation around the stoma to feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness.
However, with practise and support from a designated stoma nurse, many people adjust and often find their quality of life improves after surgery. This is especially true if they've been living for years with a condition such as Crohn's disease.
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As with any surgical procedure, having an ileostomy carries a risk of complications. Some of the problems people with an ileostomy experience include:
Read more about the risks of having an ileostomy.