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The surgeon takes a part of your small intestine (ileum) and passes it through the wall of your body. The bit that sticks out is called a stoma. The name Stoma is Greek, meaning "mouth" or "opening".
The stoma looks like a small spout, very pink in colour (similar to the inside of your mouth) - however, it has no nerve endings, so has no feeling.
In a healthy person, food is digested in the stomach. It then passes into the small intestine where the nutrients are absorbed into your body. What is left is yucky indigestible bits and moisture. This mix then passes to the large intestine where the moisture is re-absorbed into the body. What is then left is passed into the rectum for expelling through the anus.
However in a person with a stoma, digested food can only travel as far as the small intestine because everything past this point has been surgically removed. The nutrients still get absorbed, but this time by the small intestine. Moisture cannot however be absorbed to the same level as before.
All stools produced therefore are watery - they have a porridge like constancy. As all waste passes through the stoma, you have no control over this waste. You cannot dictate when it is expelled, so a bag is fitted over the stoma to collect this waste.
The stoma bag comes in many variations, but usually they can be emptied several times - just as well as for the first few weeks after the operation the volume of waste is between half to one pint a day!
There are two types of Ileostomy - an End and a Loop Ileostomy. With an End Ileostomy (which is what I have) - the Colon and Rectum are removed, and the Ileum is brought out through the body as a stoma. A Loop Ileostomy has a "loop" of the small intestine brought out through the body, but the Colon and Rectum are not removed. This allows the procedure to be temporary, and thus allows the colon time to recover and repair itself. Once this has happened, the operation can be reversed, and the stoma removed.
I was eventually diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitus, and after all available treatment failed, was presented with really the last and only option - an ileostomy with panprocolectomy.