The difference between an ileostomy and a colostomy involves which intestine is used to form a stoma or opening in the abdominal wall. An ileostomy occurs when a section of the small intestine connects to a stoma in the abdominal wall, and a colostomy involves the large intestine being connected to a stoma, notes Edgepark Medical Supplies
The ileum is the lowest section of the small intestine, and this is the section used to form an ileostomy. An ileostomy functions as the outlet for the intestines, as waste no longer leaves the body through the rectum and anus. A person with a ileostomy must wear a bag attached to the stoma site. An ileostomy is performed in individuals who have Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and cancer when the intestines no longer function appropriately, explains the American Cancer Society.
A colostomy is similar in function to an ileostomy, but a section of the large intestine is used instead. There is a stoma located in the abdominal wall, and the patient wears a bag attached to the stoma. A colostomy is a surgical procedure where the remaining colon below the ostomy site is either disconnected or removed, according to the American Cancer Society.
Both an ileostomy and a colostomy can be either temporary or permanent. If temporary, an additional surgery is done to reverse the ostomy site, which reconnects either the small intestine or the large intestine to the rest of the colon, thus reinstating normal intestinal function, reports Edgepark Medical Supplies.
Surgeons often recommend temporary colostomy for patients with colon or rectal inflammation or injury that can heal with rest, states the NIDDK. Colostomy is most often used to treat diverticulitis, rectal cancer or fecal incontinence, while ileostomy is commonly used to treat rectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.