An ileostomy is a procedure used when there is a need to stop digestive waste passing through the entirety of the colon or small intestine. Ileostomy surgery mainly concerns the colon and the rectum, which are the organs labelled as 3 and 4 on this diagram.

Simplified diagram of the digestive system

Diagram of the digestive system

An ileostomy involves bypassing or removing the colon3 and sometimes the rectum4. Waste matter can no longer leave the body so it instead comes out of the stoma and collects in a stoma bag that is attached around it. This waste matter will be runny and will be passed quite frequently – this is because the waste material will not have passed through the colon, which is where the most of the water in the waste is normally absorbed into the body.

Ileostomies are normally performed in very serious cases of inflammatory bowel disease (such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease). Temporary ileostomies can also be used to give the intestine a chance to rest and heal, or if you need to have a tumour removed.

There are two main types of ileostomy, dependent on the condition you are facing and the level of functionality or recovery period required by your digestive system. During a loop ileostomy procedure, a loop of small intestine2 (also known as the ileum) is taken to the surface of the abdomen – the end of the ileum is the stoma. This is usually a temporary procedure which can be reversed during a second operation. Alternatively, an end ileostomy may be used. This is where the end of the small intestine is separated from the large intestine and brought to the surface of your abdomen. These are more often seen as permanent procedures. 

How does an Ileostomy bag work?

An ileostomy bag collects waste material from your stoma, which generally has a fluid, porridge like consistency. Most often, ileostomy bags are drainable so they can be emptied several times per day when they become full. 

Ileostomy bags are fitted to a stoma in two parts, a flange which fits directly to the stoma and keeps the bag secure to avoid leakage, and the bag. The bag itself can either be permanently attached, in a complete, one piece ileostomy bag system, or the flange and bag can be de-coupled so the ileostomy bag can be replaced more regularly than the flange – this is known as a two piece system. 

You can order ileostomy 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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