Can I Reverse My Colostomy or Ileostomy?

Some people who have a colostomy or ileostomy to remove stool from their body will live with it for life. Others may have a temporary ostomy while they recover from surgery.

Or you may be eager to seal up your ostomy, the hole that’s also called a stoma, and go back to emptying your bowels normally.

Is Reversal an Option?

You must to be in good health to undo your ostomy. You also need to have enough rectum left over from your original surgery, and the muscle strength to push out your food waste through the chamber. Your doctor will decide after talking with you, examining your bottom, and possibly testing how strong your muscles are in there.

The ideal time to close your ostomy is about 3 to 12 months after your surgery. You also should be finished with chemotherapy or other treatments. It’s also possible to wait several years to do a reversal.

Ask your surgeon if you should do exercises or physical therapy before surgery to work the muscles in your rectum. That could help you resume your normal bowel movements sooner.

Possible Complications

Many surgeries to undo a colostomy or ileostomy are fairly simple. But the closure is more difficult and the recovery longer if all or much of your colon is gone or not working. Reversal surgery may lead to problems such as:

  • Temporary bowel paralysis. You may need rest and other help to get it going again.
  • Stool leaking into inside your belly
  • Scar tissue that makes it hard or impossible to poop
  • Hernia, when your bowel pokes through the cut made for your stoma
  • Bladder infection
  • Problems peeing or having sex because of nerve damage

Recovery

You’ll usually stay in the hospital for 3 to 10 days. You’ll leave after your bowel movements start and if you have no complications.

It may take some time for you to poop normally again. At first, you may:

  • Have loose or watery stools
  • Need to poop more often
  • Feel that your bowels aren’t completely empty after going to the bathroom
  • Leak stool

Continued

Some TLC for your gut can help you get regular more quickly. You can:

  • Stay away from fatty or spicy dishes
  • Eat small meals with low fiber, and increase portions slowly
  • Drink lots of fluids so you won’t get stopped up
  • Avoid cabbage, onions, and other foods that give you gas
  • Limit fizzy drinks, alcohol, and caffeine

With your doctor’s OK, you can exercise lightly, like walking. You won’t be allowed to lift anything heavy for a month and can’t drive until you can make an emergency stop without pain (about 2 weeks).

If your doctor tells you that you cannot reverse your ostomy, know that with adjustments, you should be able to enjoy a full and active life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on January 20, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

United Ostomy Association of America: “Facts About Ostomy Reversals.”

Colostomy UK: “Stoma Reversal.”

National Health Service: “Reversal Colostomy.”

Royal Surrey County Hospital: “Stoma Reversal.”

Bladder & Bowel Community (UK): “Stoma Reversal.”

Frontiers in Surgery: “Stomal Closure: Strategies to Prevent Incisional Hernia.”

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