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What Is Ostomy Reversal Surgery?

By T. Broderick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Ostomy reversal surgery is a medial procedure performed when a patient no longer needs assistance in eliminating solid waste from the body. The procedure is the reversal of a colostomy, the creation of an artificial opening in the abdomen to eliminate solid waste when the body cannot do it naturally. The surgery itself it a relatively simple procedure. For some patients, the adjustment period after surgery may be difficult and, in some cases, painful. Complications are a possibility.

There are a number of medical conditions such as colon or anal cancer that makes it impossible for one to normally eliminate solid waste. During a colostomy, a surgeon exposes a small part of the large intestine outside of the abdomen to act as an artificial anus. Using a colostomy bag or ostomy irrigation, a patient can eliminate waste and live a close to normal life. In cases where the anus and/or large intestine heals, ostomy reversal surgery restores normal bowel function.

During a ostomy reversal surgery, a surgeon reinserts the large intestine back into the abdominal cavity after closing the stoma, the piece of intestine given an artificial opening. The surgery itself is routine; the chance of complications is low if the patient is healthy before surgery. The recovery process that occurs over the following days and weeks determines the success of ostomy reversal surgery.

If one has had an ostomy for many months of years, one's body requires time to readjust to using its colon and anus. In the few days where one is recovering in the hospital, this process may be painful as solid waste travels through dormant intestines. Physicians provide pain medication if necessary. Nausea within the first few days is normal as well.

After surgery, a patient will only be allowed to ingest fluids and soft foods such as bread and soup. The urge to defecate comes on suddenly for patients, and soiling oneself is not uncommon. Within two or three days after surgery, stools should become normal and a patient has greater control over his or her bowel functions. The ability to eat normal food and have a normal bowel movement is a sign that a patient is ready to return home.

Possibly life-threatening complications associated with ostomy reversal surgery can occur. The most serious is that that tear will form in the repaired colon, causing fecal matter to leak into the abdomen. This release causes a major infection that requires immediate surgery and strong antibiotics; a patient may lose many feet or meters of colon as a result. Also, as with any surgery, there are risks associated with bleeding and anesthesia.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1000997 — On Feb 13, 2019

Is diarrhea common after this surgery?

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