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Recovery from stoma surgery

As with any type of surgery, there is going to be recovery time. During this time it’s advised that you keep exercise to an absolute minimum, you keep yourself hydrated and you still remain mobile.

Recovering from stoma surgery is different for all patients and it may take longer for some patients than others. It’s important not to rush the recovery period and to take as much time as your body needs to adjust to the changes that have been made to your body.

Below we have answers to some common questions that people have about recovering from their stoma surgery…

How will I feel after surgery?

As with any type of surgery, you’ll likely feel quite tired and weak afterwards, your abdomen may also feel quite tender. It is so important that you rest following your surgery, however, it’s important to keep mobile as this can help aid recovery. Just take it slow and don’t expect to be able to go straight back into your normal routine.

Post stoma surgery, it is completely normal to feel a bit emotional and slightly overwhelmed. After all, having stoma surgery is a big change both physically and emotionally. This is completely normal and talking to people about your situation can be really helpful.

What will my stoma look like after surgery?

After surgery, your abdomen and stoma will both be quite swollen, this is normal and nothing to worry about. As you recover, your stoma will reduce in size quite significantly and its output will start to become more regular.

After your surgery, you will have a large clear bag over your stoma. This is so that your nurse can monitor the size, shape and output from the stoma.

At first, your stoma may appear dark red and quite swollen, this is nothing to worry about as your stoma will get lighter as you recover. Most stomas are a pink or light red colour once fully recovered.

Will I have stitches?

Yes, you will have stitches to hold the skin around your stoma. These stitches will most likely be dissolvable and will, therefore, not require a hospital appointment to remove them.

How long will it take to fully recover after my surgery?

If you are awaiting stoma surgery or are recently post-op, you might be wondering how long it will be until you are fully recovered. Of course, this can vary from person to person, but on average it should follow a pattern similar to this one:

Hospital for 3-10 days

Most stoma patients are able to leave the hospital after just a few days, although you should be prepared to spend up to 10 days. During this time you may be kept on a drip to ensure you remain well hydrated. You might also have a catheter to drain urine and an oxygen mask to help you breathe.

You will likely be taught how to care for your stoma during this time, most importantly how to change and empty your bag. Also, keeping the skin around your stoma clean and healthy to prevent infection.

Home to rest for 6-8 weeks

Once you leave hospital you will likely still be on bed rest and unable to do anything too strenuous. During this time you will hopefully feel your strength beginning to return as you recuperate, which should see you become slightly more active.

You may begin to do some light exercise during this time, such as short walks to help rebuild your strength. After 8 weeks you should be able to resume many of your normal activities.

Full recovery after around 3 months

You will start to feel better and resume your daily life after 8 weeks with a bit of luck. But a full recovery usually takes around 3 months as the abdominal muscles need to completely heal. Avoid any heavy lifting (a good rule of thumb is anything heavier than a kettle) or overly strenuous activities during this time.

When will my stoma start working?

After surgery, it can take a few days for your stoma to start producing any output. Your bowel will be in a state of shock initially. Things you can do to help this process is remaining mobile and remaining hydrated. You may experience painful bloating during this stage as your stoma isn’t fully working yet, however, you can take pain relief to ease these pains.

Once your stoma does start producing output, it may be a little erratic and you could experience both diarrhoea and constipation. This is all completely normal and will settle down over the next couple of weeks.

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