An ileostomy is a surgical procedure in which the small intestine is attached to the abdominal wall in order to bypass the large intestine; digestive waste then exits the body through an artificial opening called a stoma (from the Greek word for "mouth").
In general, an ostomy is the surgical creation of an opening from an internal structure to the outside of the body. An ileostomy, therefore, creates a temporary or permanent opening between the ileum (the portion of the small intestine that empties to the large intestine) and the abdominal wall. The colon and/or rectum may be removed or bypassed. A temporary ileostomy may be recommended for patients undergoing bowel surgery (e.g., removal of a segment of bowel), to provide the intestines with sufficient time to heal without the stress of normal digestion.
Chronic ulcerative colitis is an example of a medical condition that is treated with the removal of the large intestine. Ulcerative colitis occurs when the body's immune system attacks the cells in the lining of the large intestine, resulting in inflammation and tissue damage. Patients with ulcerative colitis often experience pain, frequent bowel movements, bloody stools, and loss of appetite. An ileostomy is a treatment option for patients who do not respond to medical or dietary therapies for ulcerative colitis.
Other conditions that may be treated with an ileostomy include:
The United Ostomy Association estimates that approximately 75,000 ostomy surgeries are performed each year in the United States, and that 750,000 Americans have an ostomy. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease affect approximately one million Americans. There is a greater incidence of the diseases among Caucasians under the age of 30 or between the ages of 50 and 70.
For some patients, an ileostomy is preceded by removal of the colon (colonectomy) or the colon and rectum (protocolectomy). After the patient is placed under general anesthesia, an incision approximately 8 in (20 cm) long is made down the patient's midline, through the abdominal skin, muscle, and other subcutaneous tissues. Once the abdominal cavity has been opened, the colon and rectum are isolated and removed. The anal canal is stitched closed. Other patients undergoing ileostomy will have only a temporary bypass of the colon and rectum; examples are patients undergoing small bowel resection or the creation of an ileoanal anastomosis. An ileoanal anastomosis is a procedure in which the surgeon forms a pouch out of tissue from the ileum and connects it directly to the anal canal.
There are two basic types of permanent ileostomy: conventional and continent. A conventional ileostomy, also called a Brooke ileostomy, involves a separate, smaller incision through the abdominal wall skin (usually on the lower right side) to which the cut end of the ileum is sutured. The ileum may protrude from the skin, often as far as 2 in (5 cm). Patients with this type of stoma are considered fecal-incontinent, meaning they can no longer control the emptying of wastes from the body. After a conventional ileostomy, the patient is fitted with a plastic bag worn over the stoma and attached to the abdominal skin with adhesive. The ileostomy bag collects waste as it exits from the body.
An alternative to conventional ileostomy is the continent ileostomy. Also called a Kock ileostomy, this procedure allows a patient to control when waste exits the stoma. Portions of the small intestine are used to form a pouch and valve; these are directly attached to the abdominal wall skin to form a stoma. Waste collects internally in the pouch and is expelled by insertion of a soft, flexible tube through the stoma several times a day.
The patient meets with the operating physician prior to surgery to discuss the details of the surgery and receive instructions on pre- and post-operative care. Directly preceding surgery, an intravenous (IV) line is placed to administer fluid and medications, and the patient is given a bowel prep to cleanse the bowel and prepare it for surgery. The location where the stoma will be placed is marked, away from bones, abdominal folds, and scars.