To understand what a colostomy is, what it is for and how it differs from other types of stomas such as ileostomies and urostomies, it’s important to understand how the digestive system works.

Simplified diagram of the digestive system

Diagram of the digestive system

A colostomy is an opening created in the colon (the large intestine - labelled as 3 on the diagram),diverting it outside the body, often on the left hand side of the abdomen. Colostomies vary in size and positioning but generally resemble a rosebud shape and colour, as the lining of the intestine is very similar to the lining of your mouth.

A colostomy can be necessary if part of the rectum4 and/or colon needs to be removed or bypassed. Waste matter (faeces) comes out of the stoma and collects in a stoma pouch that is attached around it.A colostomy changes how the body passes stool but does not change the function of the digestive system. The consistency of the waste matter will depend on how much of the colon has been removed – remember, it is from the colon that water in the waste material is absorbed back into the body. The further up the colon the stoma is created, the more liquid the waste material.

Colostomies can be permanent or temporary. Permanent colostomies can be needed if you have an obstruction or growth of some sort in the colon or rectum, accidental injury or if you have a severe case of inflammatory bowel disease. Temporary colostomies are usually needed if the intestine needs to rest or heal for a period of time – this could be because of accidental injury, or diverticular diseases where waste matter gets trapped in the intestine and causes inflammation, pain or bleeding.

If you have been told you will need a colostomy and want to know what to expect, you may find this guide helpful, written by our Stoma Care Nurses.

How does a Colostomy Bag work?

A colostomy bag collects the waste matter which passes from the body through the stoma.

Colostomy bags can be fitted as a one piece pouch where the bag and flange are joined together and removed and disposed of at the same time, or a two piece pouch where the bag and flange are separate but lock together, so the flange is changed less often than the bag. There are also disposable, ‘flushable’ options for colostomy bags, available from our sister company, CliniMed. 

You can order colostomy bag supplies and samples from SecuriCare, over the phone or through your online account once you have registered. 

Click here for information and tips on your recovery after surgery. 

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