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What to Expect Before & During Ostomy Surgery of the Bowel

How do I prepare for ostomy surgery of the bowel?

Your surgeon and an ostomy nurse may help you prepare for ostomy surgery of the bowel. Ostomy nurses—wound, ostomy, and continence nurses or enterostomal therapy nurses—are nurses who specialize in ostomy care.

An ostomy nurse can help you prepare for ostomy surgery by providing information about topics such as

  • the surgical procedure you will have
  • how ostomy pouches work
  • how to adjust to life with a stoma 

Health care professionals will examine you while you are in different positions—such as standing, sitting, or lying down—to help decide where the stoma should be placed. Stomas are usually placed in the lower part of the abdomen, just below the beltline. However, people who have obesity typically need the stoma to be placed in the upper abdomen.

Your surgeon and ostomy nurse will help choose a location for your stoma that

  • you can easily see and reach
  • will be less likely to get in the way of your activities or clothing
  • will lower the chance of complications after surgery
Health care professional talking with a patient and a member of the patient’s family.
An ostomy nurse may help you prepare for ostomy surgery.

How do surgeons perform ostomy surgery of the bowel?

How your surgeon performs ostomy surgery will depend on the type of surgery you are having. You will receive general anesthesia for ostomy surgery.

Surgeons may perform laparoscopic, robotic, or open ostomy surgery. During laparoscopic and robotic surgery, surgeons make a small cut in your abdomen and insert a laparoscope—a thin tube with a tiny video camera and light attached—to view the inside of your abdomen. Surgeons will then make additional small cuts and insert tools to remove or repair organs and tissues. In open surgery, surgeons make a larger cut to open your abdomen.

Depending on the reason you need surgery, surgeons may also remove or repair part of the digestive tract during the operation.

Last Reviewed June 2021
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.