What Happens After Ostomy Surgery?


Even though an ostomy is temporary or permanent, individuals face multiple challenges and lifestyle changes while adapting to living with an ostomy. In addition, ostomy care can be challenging due to the body image issues and complexity of care. These challenges impact the ability to retain educational information. This blog will give a personal insight into difficulties adjusting to learning and living with an ostomy.

Adapting and Learning After Surgery

Surgical techniques have evolved over the years, causing a decreased hospital stay and surgical complications. However, this reduces the amount of time to learn basic skills for ostomy management. Therefore, most of the education provided is with a home health nurse or skilled/rehabilitation facility.
Basic educational skills and ostomy management teach the individual to care for the stoma with appliance application, care for the skin surrounding the stoma (peristomal), and dietary considerations. Including a significant other or close family member in the lessons is essential for helping the individual with a support person. Before the lessons start, the nurse should assess concerns and personalize the education. The personalized education will provide the individual with routine ostomy management and product selection tips.

The Reality of Living With a Stoma

Initially, seeing the stoma causes a reaction of rejection of the stoma. The response includes not wanting to look and take care of it. The reaction is normal, and it takes time to adjust to living with a stoma. There is a pause in the lesson, and counseling is offered.

Ongoing Education and Support is Key

Due to the complexity of care, several lessons are necessary for retaining education. In the beginning, applying and emptying the appliance is awkward. Actively participating and providing a return demonstration of skills ensures building ostomy care and acceptance self-confidence. Before discharge (hospital, home health, or extended care facility), nurses should provide individualized care instructions with resources (education, support groups, suppliers) and appliances/accessories for at least five changes. It is essential to order supplies soon after the discharge. This limited number of appliances is to get an individual through the delivery time for the initial supply order. Returning home is when the real-life process starts with learning to live with a stoma. An individual with an ostomy has concerns with ostomy odors, appliance leaking, and noises. The person with an ostomy will isolate themselves to avoid disclosing the ostomy. Ostomy support groups offer continued learning from peers with an ostomy. There are many online and local support groups. Interacting with peers provides the ability to discuss social and emotional issues. In addition, the interactions help to give a sense of not being alone.


The key to learning to adapt to living with an ostomy is early self-care management and expanding to psychosocial concerns. Peer recovery and support groups empower self-care and encourage social interactions.


The views and opinions stated in this blog are exclusively those of the author and do not reflect those of iWound, its affiliates, or partner companies.


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Kirkland-Kyhn, H., Martin, S., Zaratkiewicz, S., Whitmore, M., & Young, H. M. (2018, April). Ostomy Care at Home. American Journal of Nursing, 118(4), 63-68.

Kjaergaard, D., Elgaard Soerensen, E., Burcharth, K., & Rosenberg, J. (2013, July/August). Learning to Live with a Permanent Intestinal Ostomy. Journal Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing, 40(4), 407-411. doi:10.1097/WON.0b013e3182987e0e

Prinz, A., Colwell, J. C., Cross, H. H., Mantel, J., Perkins, J., & Walker, C. A. (2015, January/February ). Discharge Planning for a Patient With a New Ostomy. Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing, 42(1), 79-82. doi:10.1097/WON.0000000000000094

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