Health library

Back to health library

Understanding ostomies

Some medical problems can make it hard for your body to get rid of waste. An ostomy can be a lifesaving procedure.

Some medical problems can harm your bladder or intestines and make it difficult for your body to remove waste. One solution is an ostomy. An ostomy is an operation that creates a stoma, an opening that lets waste pass from your body.

According to the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, ostomies can help:

  • Ease pain.
  • Keep a disease, an infection or a blockage from getting more serious.
  • Improve overall health.
  • Save lives.

People may need an ostomy because of cancer, colitis or Crohn's disease. Other reasons can include birth defects, blockages, chronic swelling of the bladder or intestines, or an injury.

Types of ostomy

The three most common types of ostomy are colostomy, ileostomy and urostomy. While most ostomies have an outside bag collect waste, some types allow waste collection inside your body.

What type of ostomy you need and how long you'll need it depends on your medical condition.

Colostomy. This operation creates an opening somewhere in the large intestine such as the bowel or colon. In most cases, waste passes through the new opening and is collected in a pouch outside your body.

Ileostomy. In this procedure, the colon and the rectum may be removed. Waste will then pass through a new opening in the small intestine. In some ileostomies, waste collects in an outside pouch. But in other types, waste can collect in a pouch inside the body or may still be removed naturally.

Urostomy. This ostomy creates an opening that diverts urine away from a diseased or infected bladder. The urine is then collected in a pouch outside your body.

An ostomy may take time to get used to. But most people who have them go on to live healthy, active lives.

Reviewed 5/20/2022

Related stories