An enterostomy is an operation in which the surgeon makes a passage into the patient's small intestine through the abdomen with an opening to allow for drainage or to insert a tube for feeding. The opening is called a stoma, from the Greek word for mouth. Enterostomies may be either temporary or permanent. They are classified according to the part of the intestine that is used to create the stoma. If the ileum, which is the lowest of the three sections of the small intestine, is
used to make the stoma, the operation is called an ileostomy. If the jejunum, which is the middle section of the small intestine, is used, the operation is called a jejunostomy. Some people use the word ostomy as a word that covers all types of enterostomies.
Enterostomies are performed in order to create a new opening for the passage of fecal matter when normal intestinal functioning is interrupted or when diseases of the intestines cannot be treated by medications or less radical surgery. Enterostomies are usually performed only as emergency treatments for traumatic injuries in the abdomen or as final measures for serious disorders of the intestines. Most patients do not refuse to have the operation performed when the need for it is explained to them. A small minority, however, refuse enterostomies because of strong psychological reactions to personal disfigurement and the need to relearn bowel habits.
Ileostomies represent about 25% of enterostomies. They are performed after the surgeon removes a diseased colon and sometimes the rectum as well. The most common ileostomy is called a Brooke ileostomy after the English surgeon who developed it. In a Brooke ileostomy, the surgeon makes the stoma in the lower right section of the abdomen. The ileum is pulled through an opening (incision) in the muscle layer. The surgeon then turns the cut end of the intestine inside out and sews it to the edges of the hole. He or she then positions an appliance for collecting the fecal material. The appliance consists of a plastic bag that fits over the stoma and lies flat against the abdomen. The patient is taught to drain the bag from time to time during the day. Ileostomies need to be emptied frequently because the digested food contains large amounts of water. Shortly after the operation, the ileostomy produces one to two quarts of fluid per day; after a month or two of adjustment, the volume decreases to one or two pints per day.
The Kock pouch is a variation of the basic ileostomy and is named for its Swedish inventor. In the Kock technique, the surgeon forms a pouch inside the abdominal cavity behind the stoma that collects the fecal material. The stoma is shaped into a valve to prevent fluid from leaking onto the patient's abdomen. The patient then empties the pouch several times daily by inserting a tube (catheter) through the valve. The Kock technique is sometimes called a continent ileostomy because the fluid is contained inside the abdomen. It is successful in 70–90% of patients who have it done.
A jejunostomy is similar to an ileostomy except that the stoma is placed in the second section of the small intestine rather than the third. Jejunostomies are performed less frequently than ileostomies. They are almost always temporary procedures.
Tube enterostomies are operations in which the surgeon makes a stoma into the stomach itself or the jejunum in order to insert a tube for liquid nutrients. Tube enterostomies are performed in patients who need tube feeding for longer than six weeks, or who have had recent mouth or nose surgery. As long as the patient's intestinal tract can function, tube feedings are considered preferable to intravenous feeding. Enteral nutrition is safer than intravenous fluids and helps to keep the patient's digestive tract functioning.
If the enterostomy is temporary, aftercare consists of the usual monitoring of surgical wounds for infection or bleeding. If the patient has had a permanent ileostomy, aftercare includes learning to use the appliance or empty the Kock pouch; learning to keep the stoma clean; and readjusting bathroom habits. Recovery takes a long time because major surgery is a shock to the system and the intestines take several days to resume normal functioning. The patient's fluid intake and output will be checked frequently to minimize the risk of dehydration.
Ileostomy patients must learn to watch their fluid and salt intake. They are at greater risk of becoming dehydrated in hot weather, from exercise, or from diarrhea. In some cases they may need extra bananas or orange juice in the diet to keep up the level of potassium in the blood.
Patient education includes social concerns as well as physical self-care. Many ileostomy patients are worried about the effects of the operation on their close relationships and employment. If the patient has not seen an ET before the operation, the aftercare period is a good time to find out about self-help and support groups. The ET can also evaluate the patient's emotional reactions to the ostomy.