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5 Possible Complications From Colostomy Surgery

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By Cynthia Bateman, RN

Colostomy surgery is a procedure in which a portion of the large intestine, called a stoma, is brought through the abdominal wall to carry stool out of the body. Stool exits the body through the stoma and enters a bag attached over the abdomen.

Colostomies may be temporary as in cases of injury or disease when the bowel just needs time to rest and repair itself, or they may be permanent as in cases of cancer when the bowel can no longer function. Some complications may occur following colostomy surgery.

1. Abdominal Hernia

One possible complication of colostomy surgery is an abdominal hernia. reports that after colostomy surgery, a portion of the intestine may bulge through the abdominal wall next to the stoma. This is usually due to placing the stoma in a place where the abdominal wall was weak or making too large a hole in the abdominal wall for the stoma. If a hernia occurs, patients may need to wear a support belt over the colostomy to push the herniated intestine back into place. If the hernia is severe, surgery may be necessary to repair it.

2. Intestinal Obstruction

Scar tissue may form within the intestines after colostomy surgery. According to Medline Plus, too much scar tissue buildup may cause an intestinal obstruction. If an intestinal obstruction occurs, stool will not be able to pass out of the intestines into the colostomy bag. Symptoms of an intestinal obstruction may include increased abdominal pain, feeling of fullness in the abdomen, and a decrease or lack of stool in the colostomy bag.

3. Infection

Medline Plus reports that infection is a possible complication following colostomy surgery. Infection may occur within the abdominal cavity or externally at the site of the stoma. Symptoms of an infection may include fever, dizziness, or muscle aches. Increased redness, swelling, or pain at the stoma site, with or without drainage or bleeding, may indicate an infection. Symptoms of an internal infection may include increased pain or swelling in the abdomen, nausea, or vomiting.

4. Skin Irritation

Skin irritation may occur around the stoma site. Irritated skin appears reddened and sore and may crack and bleed if the source of the irritation is not resolved. Most often, irritation is caused by the adhesives used to attach the colostomy bag, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. By trying different types of adhesives, like liquid adhesives versus gel-like or powdered adhesives, at the onset of symptoms, skin irritation can be prevented.

5. Depression

Depression may occur after colostomy surgery. Some patients may feel self-conscious about having to wear a colostomy bag, or patients may be saddened by the change to their lifestyle because of the colostomy. suggests counseling and education after the procedure may help to lessen depression or anxiety following colostomy surgery.

Author: Cynthia Bateman is a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where she is pursuing her Master of Arts in English with an emphasis in composition pedagogy. She is a registered professional nurse.

References: Medline Plus: Colostomy; National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Bowel DIversion Surgeries; Surgery Encyclopedia: Colostomy

Source: LIVESTRONG.COM, a proud licensing partner of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Reprinted with permission.