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What is a colostomy?

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Quick Answer

A colostomy is a surgical opening in the abdominal wall, through which one end of the colon, or large intestine, is brought to create a stoma. The colostomy provides a new route for stool out of the body in response to a medical condition, notes the American Cancer Society

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Full Answer

Not all colostomies are located in the same place, and they are not all the same size, states the American Cancer Society. The placement and size are determined on the basis of the conditions inside the abdomen. The stoma is actually the lining of the intestine, with a pink or red color. It is moist and warm to the touch and gives off minimal amounts of mucus, but its total appearance depends on body differences and the type of colostomy the surgeon decides to make. While it might look large initially, it shrinks to its long-term size within two months after surgery, taking on an oval or round shape. Some protrude from the skin a bit, but others are flush with skin level.

One difference between the stoma and the anus is that the stoma has no valve to shut off the flow of stool. Thus is why emptying the colostomy bag, which attaches to the outside of the stoma, on a regular basis is crucial. A colostomy is not an illness in and of itself but rather an alteration in the pathway that stool follows to exit the body. Depending on the patient, colostomies are temporary or permanent, according to the American Cancer Society.

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