*Please note: This slide show represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.
The role of the intestines in absorbing nutrients from food and the removal of waste from the body is an essential factor in the maintenance of good health. Both the small intestine and large intestine are major components of the overall gastrointestinal tract.
The small intestine runs from the end of the stomach to the beginning of large intestine and is involved in the absorption of nutrients from ingested food.
It has three main parts: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum.
Any remaining indigestible food (waste) and liquid is passed into the large intestine and mixes with bacteria to become stool.
The large intestine, which includes the colon and the rectum, is connected to the end of the small intestine (ileum) and ends at the anus.
The main roles of the colon are to re-absorb water from the waste and to package it for transport out of the body.
An ileostomy is a type of bowel diversion surgery. Whether a section of the colon needs to be skipped over (bypassed) because it is physically absent or needs to be given time to heal through inactivity, an ileostomy ensures that bowel contents can continue to pass out of the body.
It is important to know that an ileostomy is not a colostomy. An ileostomy is created with the last portion of the small intestine (also called the Ileum), so its output is essentially liquid and small amounts of undigestible food.
A colostomy is created with a loop of large intestine (colon), so its output is more often solid waste, mostly composed of the bacteria that live in the large intestine.
There are several ways that an ileostomy can be performed. Depending on the medical circumstances of the patient, it should be noted that ileostomies can either be temporary or permanent. In many cases, the entire colon is removed.
An overview of a few common ileostomy procedures follows, with all examples assuming the removal of the whole colon for simplicity. No attempt is made in this slide show to describe all of the variations that may presently exist.
The standard (Brooke) ileostomy is performed most often and can be used in cases involving either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis (UC).
In this procedure, a small surgical incision is made on the right lower part of the abdomen.
This serves as the opening through which the healthy end of the ileum is exposed to the exterior environment.
The edges of the ileum are sutured to the abdominal wall, resulting in the surgical creation of a stoma (originating from the Greek word which means “mouth”) – an opening that connects a body cavity, in this case the intestine interior, with the exterior environment.
The content of the small intestine consists of a combination of liquid and undigested food.
Any waste that drains out of the stoma is collected by an ostomy bag, which is worn outside of the body by applying to the area of skin around the stoma.
Ostomy bags are designed to be easily concealable under clothing, are odor-resistant, fit securely to prevent leaks, and are easy to remove and replace. Ostomy bags are emptied conveniently several times per day. Following surgery, the artificial path of waste moving through the ileum towards the abdominal stoma will require the adoption of lifestyle changes by the patient.
Patients live healthy lives with ostomies. It is important to realize that patients are able to swim, wear tight-fitting clothing, and have intimate moments with ileostomies.