What to Expect After Ostomy Surgery

A doctor speaks with their patient after ostomy surgery

For this Conversations with Clinicians segment, Cheryl Hutton (a wound, ostomy and continence nurse (WOC nurse) with CHC Solutions, Inc.) answers common questions about what to expect after ostomy surgery.

“Everyone has a different experience when they have ostomy surgery, but there are some general items that will help alleviate some anxiety about the post-operative experience,” says Hutton.

What will my stoma look like after my ostomy surgery?

Don’t be alarmed by the size of your stoma for the first few weeks after surgery. Your abdomen and your stoma could have some swelling.

You will also have stitches around the outside of your stoma. These may be dissolvable or may need to be removed a couple weeks after surgery. Your stoma will go down in size considerably over the next 2-3 months.

Right after surgery you will most likely have a clear bag over your stoma. This is so that your surgeon and your nurses can monitor the size, shape and output from the stoma. After you recover, you can choose an opaque pouch to use moving forward.

How long will I be in the hospital?

This depends on what type of stoma operation you had. It will most likely vary anywhere between three to five days if there are no complications. You will not be able to leave the hospital until your stoma has started working and your healthcare team is happy with your progress.

How will I learn to change my pouch?

Around your second or third day, your stoma nurse or WOC nurse will educate you on how to clean your stoma and change your pouch. They will show you a variety of different pouch types and explain which is best suited for you.

They will also discuss any additional products you may need such as adhesive remover, barrier strips, powder and paste. However, you may not need all these products. Everyone will have their own individual routine. It is a good idea to write down any questions you may have about your stoma so you can ask your stoma nurse during your training.

What can I eat and drink after ostomy surgery?

Immediately after stoma surgery, you will only be able to have IV fluids as your bowel function needs to return before you are able to eat. Once your bowel function starts to return, you will be able to progress to soft foods and foods that are easily digestible. If advised by your doctor, you should be able to return to a normal diet after a few days.

Your healthcare team may advise that you should avoid certain foods depending on your type of stoma. Remember to ask your doctor to speak with a dietician if you have questions about your situation before you are discharged from the hospital. As with everyone, food choices vary depending on your individual experience.

How long will I have to stay in bed?

It is important to get as mobile as possible, as soon as possible after your ostomy surgery when recommended by your doctor. It will help to aid your recovery by getting your lungs working fully again, preventing chest infections and getting your bowel working quicker. You will be encouraged to at least sit in a chair either the same day or the day after your surgery and start walking soon after. You may feel tired and a bit wobbly on your legs to begin with, but regular walking will soon increase your strength.

When will my stoma start working?

It can take a few days for your stoma to start producing any output. The bowel will have gone into a “resting” state following surgery. To aid this process, you can try to be more mobile. You will most likely experience gas passing through your stoma first. If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, you may start having liquid stools first, but within a few weeks the stool will become more pasty or firm.

If you have a urostomy, your stoma will begin to drain urine right after surgery. You may have tiny tubes called stents in place. Your doctor may place these during surgery to ensure urine drains properly from your stoma while the swelling decreases.

For more ostomy support visit https://www.chcsolutions.com/continuum_connect/ostomy/ostomy-virtual-support/.

*Disclaimer: Any health and wellness content presented is for general informational purposes only. Such content is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.