Lippincott Nursing Pocket Card - May 2022

Ostomy Management


Ostomy Management

Over 100,000 ostomy procedures are performed each year to allow for the elimination of bodily waste (Doty, 2019), with approximately 750,000 to one million people currently living with an ostomy in the U.S. (United Ostomy Associations of America, 2017).

Ostomy Types

The three most common types of ostomies are ileostomy, colostomy, and urostomy.

Fecal Ostomies (Francone, 2020)
Colostomies and ileostomies are surgical procedures performed to bypass or remove injured or diseased bowel. This creates a temporary or permanent fecal diversion where a portion of the bowel is pulled through an incision in the abdominal wall creating an ostomy or stoma.
Fecal ostomies may be used to manage medical conditions such as congenital anomalies, colon obstruction, cancer, diverticulitis, trauma to the intestinal tract, or inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Ileostomy: performed when it is necessary to remove or bypass the entire colon or rectum, or to protect a distal colorectal, coloanal, or ileoanal anastomosis. It is made from the ileum and has one opening for fecal elimination (Doty, 2019). Ileostomies always require a pouch system to collect liquid effluent which is high in digestive enzymes.
  • Colostomy: performed when it is necessary to bypass or remove the distal colon, rectum or anus. It is constructed from the ascending, transverse, descending or sigmoid colon.

Urostomies are created to bypass the bladder by diverting the normal flow of urine from the kidneys and ureters. Ureters are implanted into a small segment of ileum (called an ileal conduit) and pulled through the abdominal wall as a stoma. This procedure may be used to treat bladder cancer, neurologic dysfunction of the bladder, birth defects, chronic bladder inflammation, radiation injuries, or spinal cord injury.


Patient Preparation (Francone, 2020)

  • To achieve optimal care for patients undergoing ostomy surgery, preoperative, perioperative, and postoperative care should be performed by an ostomy nurse specialist.
  • Stoma site selection
    • Site should be selected in collaboration with an ostomy nurse specialist, surgeon, and the patient.
    • Preoperative ostomy site markings should be performed by a trained ostomy nurse specialist whenever possible.
    • Factors to consider
      • Abdominal wall shape, both sitting and standing
      • Prior abdominal incisions
      • Bony prominences
      • Occupation
      • Clothing style (i.e., belt line)
      • Disabilities and physical limitations
    • Ostomy should lie on either side of the abdominal midline, lateral and inferior to the umbilicus, and preferably over the rectus abdominis muscle for support.
    • Patient should be able to visualize the stoma and access it easily; in obese patients, stoma may be located higher on the abdominal wall.
    • Ostomy should be at least 5 cm from all folds, creases, previous incisions, belt line, umbilicus, and bony prominences.
  • Patient education, emotional support and counseling (Francone, 2020)
    • Patients requiring an ostomy often experience physical, psychological, and emotional stress related to fears of social acceptance, sexuality and cost burden. Counseling should be provided by a skilled ostomy nurse specialist, an enterostomal therapy nurse or wound ostomy continence nurse.
    • Preoperative topics include:
      • Gastrointestinal (GI) anatomy and physiology
      • Planned surgical procedure
      • Demonstration of ostomy appliances
      • Description of lifestyle adjustment with an ostomy
      • Psychological preparation
      • Early planning for discharge
      • Rehabilitation care
      • Outpatient follow-up 

Pouch Systems (Landmann, 2020)

The effluent is typically drained into an external pouch system. Pouch systems contain the ostomy effluent, contain odor, and protect the skin around the stoma.
  • When selecting a system, consider:
    • Size
    • Shape of the stoma
    • Anatomic location of the stoma
    • Location of the stomal lumen
    • Level of stomal protrusion
    • Abdominal contour
    • Type of drainage
    • Patient preference
  • One-piece systems have a barrier ring with a tape border fused to an odor-proof pouch. These are simple and often used when the stoma is in a deep crease.
  • Two-piece systems have a barrier ring with a tape border and adhesive landing zone to which the patient attaches a separate odor-proof pouch. One advantage is that the pouch can be replaced without having to remove the protective skin barrier every time.
    • A closed-end pouch is removed and discarded one to three times daily.
    • A drainable pouch has a clip or self-sealing closure at the bottom and may be emptied as needed and used for several days.
    • A urostomy pouch has an anti-reflux valve that keeps urine at the bottom of the pouch.

Pouch Placement (Landmann, 2020)

Effluent drainage contains proteolytic digestive enzymes which can cause skin irritation and damage. Strategies to help the pouch adhere to the skin and minimize leakage include:
  • Selecting a pouch system that conforms to the abdominal contour.
  • Cutting or molding the adhesive-disk skin barrier to fit the size and shape of the stoma, leaving no more than 1/8 inch of skin showing around the stoma to minimize the amount of exposed skin.*
  • Using products to help the pouch adhere (adhesive agents, skin prep), and prevent irritation and injury to the skin surrounding the stoma (skin barrier paste, skin barrier powder).
  • Using barrier wafers, rings, and/or paste to protect the skin from the drainage, particularly for loop ileostomies in which the effluent empties close to the skin surface.
*Note: stomas will change shape and size in the postoperative period, typically taking its final shape after several weeks. Pre-cut barrier rings may then be used.

Postoperative Care (Doty, 2019)

  • Stoma should be edematous, dark pink to red, moist, nonulcerated and painless.
    • A pale stoma may indicate anemia.
    • A dark or purple-blue stoma may indicate ischemia.
  • Stoma may be round, oval, or irregular, and changes may occur over the first 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Stoma height above the level of the skin should be at least 2 cm for an ileostomy and urostomy, and at least 1 cm for a colostomy.
  • Post-operative stomal edema may last up to 6 weeks.
  • Provide postoperative education including:
    • Anatomy and function of the ostomy
      • Ileostomies produce liquid feces.
      • Ascending and transverse colostomies produce semi-formed stool.
      • Descending and sigmoid colostomies produce more solid stool.
      • Urostomies should immediately produce urine; presence of blood and mucous in the urine is normal in the immediate post-operative phase.
    • Pouch procedural training
    • Nutrition
    • Clothing options (loose fitting around the stoma)
    • Discharge medications
    • Psychological issues (grief, depression, anxiety, body image, sexual and intimacy issues)
    • Social and recreational issues
    • Interpersonal relationships
    • Common complications such as leaking and dermatitis
    • Available resources, such as support groups and on-line resources

Pouch Care (Landmann, 2020)

  • The time interval between changing the pouching system varies based on the type of stoma, type of drainage, patient’s body shape, patient activity level, skin moisture, and patient preference.
    • Some pouch systems need to be changed one to two times daily, and as needed, and others can be changed every three to seven days.
    • In general, the pouch system should be changed with any signs of leakage, or if itching/burning around the stoma occur.
  • Procedure for changing the pouch system
    • Carefully remove the skin barrier.
    • Wash the skin gently with warm water and washcloth (soap is not needed).
      • Avoid premoistened wipes and products containing alcohol, as they can affect skin barrier adherence.
      • Gently and cautiously clean the peristomal skin and stoma to prevent trauma and bleeding.
    • If a skin sealant or barrier film is used, let it dry completely before applying the pouch system.
  • While ostomy pouches are odor proof, odor and gas are normal when the pouch is emptied. Strategies to help mitigate odor include (Landmann, 2020):
    • Empty the pouch when it is 1/3 full to prevent the pouch from dislodging from the seal.
    • Clean the tail of the pouch thoroughly.
    • Use room spray or pouch deodorant; over-the-counter products include:
      • Bismuth subgallate: flatulence and fecal deodorizer; thickens stools.
      • Chlorophyllin copper complex: may cause diarrhea; more useful for descending/sigmoid colostomies.
      • Simethicone-containing products (Beano® and Gas-X®)
  • Diet (Landmann, 2020)
    • Educate patients on gas-producing foods such as beans, legumes, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli, corn, and peas.
    • Inform patients that the “lag time” between eating gas-producing foods and flatulence is between 2 to 4 hours for ileostomy, and 6 to 8 hours for distal colostomy.

Ileostomy Patients (Landmann, 2020)

  • Instruct the patient to increase daily fluid intake by 500 to 750 mL to prevent dehydration.
    • Average ileostomy output ranges from 500 mL to 1300 mL per day, with up to 1800 mL in early postoperative period.
    • Effluent contains large amounts of sodium and potassium.
    • Inform patient to increase oral fluid intake if experiencing high-volume output or heavy sweating.
    • Recommend water, broth, vegetable juices, and pediatric electrolyte solutions. Discourage the use of sports drinks as some may not be absorbed.
  • Patients with a proximal ileostomy may experience poor absorption of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.
  • Instruct patients to avoid time-released, enteric-coated medications, and large tablets, as they may not be absorbed completely.
  • Instruct patients to avoid laxative use due to the risk for dehydration.
  • Teach patients the signs and symptoms of fluid-electrolyte imbalance, such as dry mouth, reduced urine output, dark concentrated urine, dizziness on standing, increased fatigue, and abdominal cramping.
  • Educate patients to avoid large amounts of insoluble fiber which could cause an obstruction, and to avoid foods such as popcorn, coconut, mushrooms, black olives, stringy vegetables, foods with skins, dried fruits, and meats with casings. These foods should be consumed one at a time, in small amounts, and chewed thoroughly.
  • Instruct patients to manage increased ileostomy output with a soluble fiber supplement (i.e., Metamucil®, psyllium, Konsyl, FiberCon®, Fiber Gummies), which can be slowly increased up to four times daily.
  • Teach patients to manage excessive and inappropriate output with antimotility agents (i.e., Imodium®, lomotil, octreotide); these agents should be added one at a time and titrated slowly to avoid paralytic ileus or obstruction.

Colostomy Patients (Landmann, 2020)

  • There aren’t any absolute dietary restrictions, and patients should be encouraged to increase fiber and fluid intake to prevent constipation.
  • Inform patients that intermittent mucoid discharge is normal.
  • Constipation may be managed with laxatives or irrigation.
    • For severe constipation, digital disimpaction may be needed, but performed only by an experienced ostomy nurse or physician.
  • Routine colon irrigation is only appropriate for distal colostomy patients.
    • 500 to 1500 mL of tap water is instilled in the descending or sigmoid colon ostomy, daily or every other day, thus stimulating peristalsis causing the distal colon to empty.
  • Most physical activities can be resumed, with the exception of extreme contact sports.
  • Counsel patients on resuming sexual activity. If an ostomy was placed secondary to pelvic surgery or radiation treatment, the autonomic nerves controlling sexual function may be injured.
  • When traveling, patients should pack extra ostomy supplies, avoid extreme temperatures, and drink only bottled water if tap water is not safe to consume.

Complications (Landmann, 2020)

Close to 50% of all stomas eventually develop complications due to pouching and peristomal skin issues. Very early complications that occur within days of surgery may be related to technical issues and often require a return to the operating room.

Early Complications
Early complications occur within 3 months of the operative procedure, are often related to poor stoma site selection, and are influenced by age, poor nutritional status, comorbidities, obesity, tobacco use, and underlying malignancy.
  • Stomal necrosis
    • Stomal necrosis is characterized by dark brown to black stoma coloration.
    • It may occur following emergency surgery, due to obesity, or inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease.
    • It most commonly occurs in the early postoperative period due to venous congestion or arterial insufficiency.
    • Management includes observation or surgical revision.
  • Stomal bleeding
    • Minor bleeding is normal in the immediate postoperative period and may result from “vigorous” stoma cleaning.
    • Major bleeding from the stoma is rare but may be caused by a stomal laceration from a poorly fitted pouch system, or by peristomal varices due to portal hypertension.
    • Management
      • Direct pressure
      • Local cauterization (cautery, silver nitrate)
      • Suture bleeding vessel, if possible.
  • Stomal retraction
    • Stomal retraction refers to a stoma that is 0.5 cm or more below the skin surface within 6 weeks of surgery, often resulting from tension on the stoma.
    • This may lead to leakage and difficulties with pouch adherence.
    • Risk factors include obesity, thick abdominal wall, foreshortened mesentery, and initial stoma height less than 10 mm.
    • Management
      • Administer local wound care.
      • Use a convex pouching system and belt or binder.
      • Surgical revision may be needed if stoma retracts below the fascia.
  • Mucocutaneous separation
    • This is separation of the ostomy from the peristomal skin, often resulting in leakage and skin irritation; may be partial or circumferential.
    • Circumferential separation with retraction of the stoma requires surgical revision immediately.
    • For less severe separation, absorptive material such as calcium alginate, skin barrier powder, paste or hydrofiber can fill the defect; cover the area with a skin protective barrier.
Late Complications
Late complications occur 3 months after surgery. Risk factors include duration of stoma, increases in intra-abdominal pressure (obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emergency surgery, height of stoma less than 10 mm, and inappropriately sized aperture.
  • Parastomal hernias occur due to obesity, poor abdominal muscle tone, chronic cough, placement of the stoma outside of the rectus muscle, and a large fascial opening.
  • Stomal prolapse is telescoping of the intestine out from the stoma, which can make pouch placement and adherence difficult. Prolonged prolapse can cause intestinal edema and may lead to constriction of the bowel lumen.
    • The highest rates of prolapse occur with loop-transverse colostomies, and end- descending colostomies.
    • Uncomplicated prolapse can be managed with cool compresses and/or osmotic agents (i.e., table sugar or honey) to reduce edema, followed by manual reduction of the prolapse (by a trained health care professional) and application of a binder.
    • Complicated prolapse with ischemia or severe mucosal irritation and bleeding requires surgical intervention.
  • Stomal stenosis is narrowing of the stoma opening and causes dysfunction; it’s common with end-colostomies.
    • Stomal stenosis may occur in early postoperative period, but it’s more likely to develop months later.
    • Stomal stenosis may result from peristomal sepsis, retraction, poor fitting pouch system, suboptimal surgical technique, Crohn’s disease, or primary or recurrent malignancy.
    • Early stenosis may be conservatively managed by gentle catheter dilation (not inflation) performed by an experienced practitioner.
    • Mild stenosis may be managed with diet modifications (i.e., avoid insoluble fiber).
    • Significant stenosis causes cramps and explosive output, and usually requires surgery.
Peristomal Skin Problems
Peristomal skin problems are the most common complications that can occur early or late, and they are more prevalent with ileostomies than colostomies. Examples include:
  • Mechanical trauma
    • Problems from mechanical trauma often appear as patchy areas of irritated, denuded skin resulting from repeated removal of adhesive products and aggressive cleaning techniques
    • Instruct patients to use plasticizing skin sealants to prevent skin damage with pouch removal, and to gently clean the peristomal skin.
    • Eliminate the causative factors, apply skin barrier powder and then blot with a skin sealant.
  • Dermatitis from peristomal skin irritation
    • Dermatitis can result from mechanical trauma, an allergic reaction to a pouch or adhesive product, peristomal fungal infection, or antibiotic therapy. Allergic reactions are characterized by pruritis, erythema, and/or blistering.
    • Refer patients with peristomal skin problems to an ostomy nurse specialist.
    • Treatment
      • If necessary, remeasure the stoma to ensure a proper skin barrier fit.
      • Identify and correct the causative factors.
      • Eliminate allergens.
      • Treat affected areas with skin barrier powder or antifungal powder.
      • Topical steroids may be required for severe reactions.
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum (PPG)
    • PPG is an uncommon ulcerative condition seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and intraabdominal malignancy.
    • PPG may develop within weeks to years after stoma surgery.
    • PPG presents as painful, full-thickness ulcers
    • There is no definitive diagnostic test; skin biopsy will show chronic inflammation and will rule out cancer and Crohn’s disease
    • Obtain cultures from the ostomy to assess for infection.
    • Manage with systemic, intralesional, and/or topical anti-inflammatory agents, such as corticosteroids and calcineurin inhibitors.
    • Other treatment options include tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitors, such as infliximab and adalimumab.
    • Wound care is important; apply nonadherent dressings that absorb exudate, maintain moisture, and prevent further skin damage.
    • Surgical management may be needed for wound debridement, stoma closure or stoma relocation.

Ostomy Reversal (Francone, 2020)

Colostomy closure can occur when the underlying condition has resolved, the patient’s health is fully recovered to baseline, and inflammation has subsided (can take three to six months or more.) Ileostomy closure can be performed between eight weeks and three months following the initial procedure once the anastomosis is healed.

Doty, S.K. (2019). Spotlight on ostomy care. Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, 17(5), 32-41.  

Francone, T.D. (Mar. 24, 2020). Overview of surgical ostomy for fecal diversion. UpToDate.

Hendren, S., Hammond, K., Glasgow, S.C., Perry, W.B., Buie, W.D., Steele, S.R., and Rafferty, J. (2015) Clinical practice guidelines for ostomy surgery. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 58(4): 375-387. 

Landmann, R.G. & Cashman, A.L. (2020). Ileostomy or colostomy care and complications. UpToDate.

United Ostomy Association of America, Inc. (2017). Ostomy 101. Retreived March 2, 2021 from