Macomb County, Michigan
Ostomy Association

What is an Ostomy?

Ostomy, Colostomy, Ileostomy

These three words and the images they convey produce dread in many people who know very little about them.  An ostomy is a surgical procedure that creates an opening on the abdominal wall for waste products to move out of the body.  It is performed when a medical condition is so severe that an ostomy offers a better alternative.  The quality of life is usually much improved for patients with an ostomy, because their previous medical condition was so deliberating.

To really understand an ostomy, it helps to know a little about the body's anatomy.  The gastrointestinal tract begins with the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach) and continues through the stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum, and anus.

Food is swallowed in the esophagus, mixed and churned in the stomach, and digested and absorbed in the small intestine.  The waste leaves the small intestine as liquid.  The colon absorbs water from the liquid material and stores the remainder as formed stool until it is passed voluntarily out of the body through the rectum.

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