While there are only three major types of ostomy surgeries; Colostomy, Ileostomy, and Urostomy, there are many types of surgeries within those groups. Each surgery has its own properties, treatments, and side effects. A Colostomy is of course the surgically created opening of the colon (large intestine) which results in a stoma. A colostomy is created when a portion of the colon or the rectum is removed and the remaining colon is brought to the abdominal wall. This provides a new path for waste material and gas to leave the body after part of the colon or rectum is removed because of disease or injury. Under the right circumstances, it is possible for the colostomate to use irrigation as a means to regulate bowel movements by emptying the colon at a regularly scheduled time and allow him/her to avoid using an ostomy pouch during the majority of the day.
Colostomy irrigation is the process of infusing water into the colon through the stoma similar to an enema. The irrigation process stimulates the colon to then empty. By performing this process once a day at a set time, it is often possible to train the colon to empty only after irrigation. This allows the colostomate to simply use a stoma cover or stoma cap, rather than the pouch normally required, for the majority of the day. Another benefit to colostomy irrigation is that it can help to avoid constipation as well.
Colostomies performed which result in the stoma being placed in the ascending or transverse colon or people with irritable bowel like symptoms typically result in an output that is more liquid and has a tendency to drain more continuously, similar to an ileostomy. These colostomies are not suited for irrigation control due to the continuous discharge.
Fortunately, the most common type of colostomy surgery is the Sigmoid or descending colostomy surgery and is sometimes referred to as a "dry colostomy". This surgery generally results in a stoma located in the lower left portion of the abdomen in the descending or sigmoid portion of the colon. Due to the location of the colostomy and the remaining amount of colon intact in the body, the stool tends to be more solid which results in a more regular emptying of the colon. With proper training, the person with a Sigmoid colostomy is generally able to use irrigation to limit the use of pouches and train their body to irrigate on an established schedule.
Colostomy irrigation is best performed on a consistent time, generally an hour after eating when the colon is most likely to be full. Irrigation may be performed once a day or sometimes even every other day depending on your own personal body and how you regulate your bowel movements. Generally it takes up to six to eight weeks for the body to regulate the bowel movements via irrigation. Patience, persistence, and consistency in irrigating on a regular schedule are key to training your body.
Colostomy irrigation is of course a personal choice and can be discussed in detail with your Ostomy Nurse or Physician.