Being told that you or a close family member needs ostomy surgery can be very scary. ” How will I cope? What will I look like? What will other people think?” are just some thoughts that may cross your mind. The good news is that you are not alone with approximately 45,000 Australians currently living with a stoma following life saving surgery. After a short recovery period, most enjoy a healthy, full and satisfying quality of life which is, depending on their condition, often better than what they experienced prior to surgery.
There are a number of medical reasons why people may need to have ostomy surgery and, because of this, everyone’s experience is quite different. Your pre-operative preparation, procedure and post operative care may be quite different to others’ experiences. To give you the very best chance of approaching your surgery with confidence, it’s important to make sure that you are well informed. Your specialist and Stomal Therapy Nurse are the best sources of information about each aspect of the procedure including what preparation will be required before the surgery, how long your hospital stay will be, and what can be expected during your post-operative period. You make like to compile a list of questions to ask your specialist and Stomal Therapy Nurse to gain a clear understanding of what to expect before, during and after your surgery, when to expect it, and what to do if the unexpected happens.

Your Medical Team

Things to Remember

Your specialist or surgeon will be the person who will perform your surgery with the assistance of an experienced medical team. When attending your pre-surgery appointment with your specialist/surgeon you will have only a short period of time to discuss what is going to happen over the course of the next few months. To help you make the most of your consultation it is a good idea to prepare in advance any questions or concerns that you may have regarding your surgery, including any pre-surgical preparations, the surgery itself, recovery and post surgical care. It may even be helpful to take a friend or close relative with you.

Questions to ask your surgeon may include:

  • What happens in the week leading up to the procedure, during and after the surgery?
  • Are there any follow up appointments or procedures?
  • Timeframes of when will these things happen, and how long they will take
  • Where will my stoma be?
  • Will my stoma be temporary or permanent?
  • What will my stoma look like?
  • What will I experience (sensations, discomfort, pain, pre-tests)?
  • How will pain be managed?
  • What medicines will be administered after the procedure, and for how many days?
  • Are there any costs involved and , if so, how much?
  • How long will the surgery take?
  • What are some of the problems that can occur in the weeks post surgery
  • What care do I need to do at home after the surgery?
  • Who will show me how to do this?
  • Who is the Anaesthetist who will be assisting with the surgery?
  • What can go wrong after I get home, and when/who do I call for help if this happens?
  • How soon can I drive after the operation?
  • What exercise can I do after your surgery?
  • When can I go back to work?
  • Who can I phone for advice during office hours and after hours?

Your anaesthetist will explain the anaesthesia that will be used during and after your operation. Your operation will be carried out under general anaesthetic, which means you will be asleep throughout the whole operation. He or she will also discuss options for pain relief following your operation and will explain any risks associated with the anaesthesia.

Shortly before your ostomy surgery, you will be introduced to your Stomal Therapy Nurse (STN). A Stomal Therapy Nurse is a fully qualified nurse who has completed further training and qualifications in caring for patients with a stoma. Both before and after your surgery, your STN will be your go-to person. He or she will help you to prepare for your surgery and to adjust to living with a stoma.

Prior to your surgery, your STN will find out as much as possible about your individual lifestyle to help identify the best position for your stoma. At the time of your surgery, your STN nurse will mark this position on your abdomen so that the surgeon can see where to form the stoma. In most cases, the stoma will be located underneath your normal clothing waistband line so that it is not irritated by your clothing. He or she may also discuss with you what you can expect following surgery including diet, exercise, stoma production selection, and stoma after care.

  • How soon can I eat after the surgery?
  • What types of food should I eat after surgery?
  • How much water should I be drinking?
  • How much stoma output can I expect?
  • How often will my stoma bag need to be emptied?
  • How often will my stoma bag need to be changed?
  • How soon can I bath or shower after the operation?
  • Will my stoma be visible under my clothes?
  • Will it affect my sex life?
  • Where will I get my stoma supplies?
  • What help or assistance will I need from a carer once I am at home?
  • Can the hospital provide in-home care, because travelling will be difficult in the initial few weeks?
  • How soon can I drive after the operation?
  • What exercise can I do after your surgery?
  • When can I go back to work?
  • Will I be able to travel with a stoma?
  • What should I do if I have skin irritation after your stoma surgery?
  • What should I do if my stoma appliance leaks?
  • Who should I contact if something feels wrong?

Once your stoma surgery is booked, the hospital will send out admission forms, consent forms and medical history forms for you to fill out.  You may also receive a list of things to bring with you into hospital such as underwear, pyjamas, toiletries etc. Other items you may like to consider bringing are:

  • Short, or loose sleeved shirts that have openings large enough to fit over an IV on your hand or elbow
  • Comfy loose, soft boxer shorts to protect some modesty
  • Shaving equipment
  • Deodorant
  • Hair products
  • Slippers
  • Favourite rug and pillow
  • Any current medications (check with your specialist prior to your surgery to make sure that you should keep taking these while you are recovering)
  • Mobile phones and charger
  • Good book
  • Craft project eg: cross stitch, knitting, crochet
  • Puzzle books eg: crossword, find a word, Sudoku
  • Packet of cards
  • Photo of loved ones
  • Favourite toy or blanket (for small kids)

These items will help to make your stay a little more comfortable and can be brought in throughout your hospital stay by a friend or family member.

  • Your Medicare card
  • Your Health Care card (if applicable)
  • Your pension card (if applicable)
  • Your private health insurance card (if applicable)
  • The contact numbers of your loved ones
  • The telephone number of your GP doctors surgery
  • Your credit card in case there are out of pocket or excess costs that need to be paid up front