The success of an ileostomy or colostomy depends on the surgeon’s skill, the placement of the stoma, and the care provided before and after surgery during enterostomal therapy. M. Jonathan Worsey, MD, FRCS, FACS, FASCRS, and Keith Beiermeister, MD, FACS, FASCRS, at San Diego Colon and Rectal Surgeons in La Jolla, California, have extensive experience constructing and caring for patients with ostomies. Their team includes multiple enterostomal therapy nurses with expertise in all areas of stoma care.

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What is enterostomal therapy?

Enterostomal therapy refers to the ongoing care of patients who have an ileostomy or colostomy. These ostomies are surgically constructed connections between the small or large intestines and an opening in your skin. Ostomies allow wastes to drain out of your body after part or all of the colon and/or rectum are removed.

This connects the lower end of your small intestine (the ileum) to an opening (stoma) in your abdominal wall. Digested food passes through the stoma and collects in an external ostomy bag.

You can have a temporary ileostomy to remove waste while the colon or rectum heals. However, many patients need a permanent ileostomy when the colon is removed, and the small intestine can’t be connected to the anus.

When you have a colostomy, the colon is connected to the abdominal opening. You could need a colostomy when part of the colon or rectum is removed, and as with ileostomy, this could be temporary or permanent.

What should I expect during enterostomal therapy?

Whether you get an ileostomy, colostomy, or urostomy, it signals a significant change in your life. Enterostomal therapy provides ongoing education and medical support for issues like:

  • How to care for the stoma
  • How to attach, drain, and change the ostomy pouch
  • Dietary and fluid changes
  • Monitoring the stoma for complications
  • Preventing and treating skin breakdown

Your enterostomal therapy nurse evaluates your skin’s condition, as well as the size and shape of the stoma. They also watch for signs of sensitivities to the ostomy products.

The enterostomal nurses at San Diego Colon and Rectal Surgeons also have expertise in managing the Kock pouch (also called a continent ileostomy or K-pouch).

Does enterostomal therapy help with practical problems?

As you recover from surgery, your enterostomal therapy nurse can help with the many practical concerns you’ll have as you learn to live with an ostomy. They can help with digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, and constipation that typically arise as your body heals.

Your enterostomal specialist can also teach you about dietary issues. For example, you should follow a low-fiber diet after your surgery and gradually add regular food. They can also help you find support for social and emotional challenges if needed.

When you need help learning about and adjusting to an ileostomy, colostomy, or urostomy, call San Diego Colon and Rectal Surgeons or book an appointment online.