published Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Ask a doctor: Why do some people get 'a bag' after colon surgery, and is it reversible?

Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero

Q. Why do some people get “a bag” after colon surgery, and is it reversible?

A. A “bag” is just the appliance that is placed over a stoma or ostomy. Stomas come in several varieties: colostomies (colon), ileostomies (small bowel) and urostomies (small bowel, but produces urine, not stool). An ostomy connects either the small or the large intestine to the surface of the body. An ostomy may be temporary or permanent. A temporary ostomy may be required if the intestinal tract can’t be properly prepared for surgery because of blockage by disease or scar tissue. A temporary ostomy also may be created to allow a disease process or operative site to heal without irritation by the passage of stool. Temporary ostomies can usually be reversed with minimal or no loss of intestinal function. A permanent ostomy may be required when disease, or its treatment, impairs normal intestinal function, or when the muscles that control the rectum do not work properly or require removal. The most common causes of these conditions are low rectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. If the anus is still present, it is technically possible to reverse the ostomy so the patient can defecate normally.

— Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero, colorectal surgeon, University Surgical Associates; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question for a medical doctor, email it to Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com. See this space each week for answers.

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