Colostomy and ileostomy

Colostomy and ileostomy are surgical procedures. When a part of the digestive system is diseased or damaged and not able to function normally, a hole is made in the abdomen and a portion of the small or large intestine is brought to an opening in the skin. This opening is known as the colostomy (in large intestine) or ileostomy (in small intestine), and the exposed end of the intestine is known as the stoma.

See pictures of the large intestine, small intestine, and a colostomy stoma.

When you have a colostomy or ileostomy, waste leaves the body through the stoma instead of the anus. Since there is no muscle around the stoma, you are not able to control when waste or gas passes out of the body. To collect the waste, an odor-proof plastic pouch (an ostomy pouch) is connected to the stoma and held to your skin with an adhesive.

An ostomy can be done at any number of locations. Types of ostomies include the following:


A colostomy is created when part of the colon or the rectum is removed and the remaining colon is brought to the abdominal wall. Colostomies may be performed because of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, Hirschsprung's disease, or not having an anus (imperforate anus).

A colostomy can be temporary or permanent and is also defined by the part of the colon operated on.

  • A sigmoid or descending colostomy is the most common type of ostomy surgery. The end of the descending, or sigmoid, colon is brought to the surface of the abdomen. It is usually located on the lower left side of the abdomen. The waste takes the form of a stool.
  • A transverse colostomy is located in the middle or right side of the upper abdomen. The waste is a thick liquid or appears pastelike. A loop colostomy can also be done in the transverse colon. A loop colostomy has two openings: one for waste and one for mucus.
  • An ascending colostomy is located on the right side of the abdomen. The waste is thick liquid.


An ileostomy is created when the ileum (the lowest part of the small intestine) is brought to the abdominal wall to form a stoma. Ileostomies may be performed because of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease or when multiple polyps develop in the colon and rectum (familial polyposis). The waste is liquid or mushy.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009

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