What Is an Ileostomy?

Anterior abdomen showing end ileostomy.

During an ileostomy , a healthcare provider either removes or disconnects your colon (large intestine), and sometimes part of the last section of your ileum (last section of your small intestine). If your colon or ileum is diseased, the healthcare provider may remove them. If they are injured, healthcare providers may disconnect them for a short time, while they heal. Your healthcare provider will bring the end of the ileum through your abdominal wall. This makes an opening, called a stoma , for stool and mucus to pass out of the body.

An end ileostomy

The most common type of ileostomy is the end ileostomy:

  • Your healthcare provider removes or disconnects your colon, and sometimes part of your ileum. He or she may also remove or disconnect your rectum and anus. 

  • The stoma is most often on the lower right side of your belly.

  • Stool tends to be quite liquid, because there is no colon to absorb water from the stool. The stool also contains digestive juices, so it's very irritating to the skin.

  • An end ileostomy is most often permanent. Your healthcare provider may do this operation to treat inflammatory bowel disease or polyps (growths) in your intestine.

  • Sometimes an end ileostomy is temporary. Your healthcare provider may do this operation to let your colon heal, as after an injury.

There are other types of ileostomies. These can be temporary or permanent.

The stoma

Your healthcare provider creates the stoma by bringing the end of the ileum through your abdominal wall, and turning it back on itself, like a cuff:

  • The inside of the ileum is like the inside of your mouth. The stoma is pink and moist.

  • The stoma shrinks to its final size 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Then it will be round or oval and sit about one-quarter to one-half inch above your skin.

  • Both stool and mucus pass through the stoma. If your anus is not removed, some mucus may pass from your anus as well.

  • The ileostomy is then covered in a special appliance that will fit comfortably, collect stool, decrease skin irritation, and eliminate odor. You will be taught to care for this.