Preparing for Stoma Surgery

If you or a loved one are about to undergo stoma surgery, it’s natural to feel a mix of emotions and have questions about what to expect. This in-depth article aims to provide you with practical information to help you understand and prepare for the surgery, ensuring that you feel confident and well-informed about the process.
Woman with a stoma

Table of Contents

Understanding Stoma Surgery

A stoma is a surgically created opening that connects a portion of the intestine or urinary tract to the abdominal wall. Stoma surgery may be necessary for various reasons, including inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, bowel obstruction, or bladder dysfunction.

The surgery may involve the creation of a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy, depending on the underlying medical condition.


Preoperative Assessments and Consultations

Before your stoma surgery, you will undergo a series of preoperative assessments and consultations to ensure you are prepared for the procedure. These may include:


Stoma Site Marking

Before the surgery, a stoma nurse or surgeon will mark the optimal location for the stoma on your abdomen. The ideal site should:

  • Be away from skin folds, scars, and bony prominences
  • Have a relatively flat surface
  • Allow for easy access when changing the pouch

It’s crucial to wear your regular clothing during the marking process to ensure that the stoma location is compatible with your daily activities.


Bowel Preparation

In most cases, you will need to prepare your bowel before stoma surgery to minimize the risk of infection and complications. Bowel preparation may involve:


Packing a Hospital Bag

Prepare a hospital bag with essential items to ensure a comfortable stay during your recovery. Consider including:

  • Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Sleepwear and slippers
  • Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc.)
  • A notepad and pen for taking notes during consultations
  • A small pillow or cushion to support your abdomen when coughing or moving
  • Entertainment items, such as books or electronic devices
an overnight bag for a hospital stay


Mental and Emotional Preparation

Feeling anxious or concerned about stoma surgery is normal. To help alleviate your worries, consider the following tips:

a doctor talking to a stoma patient post surgery


Post-Surgery Expectations

After your stoma surgery, you’ll need some time to recover and adapt to your new stoma. Here’s what you can expect during the recovery process:

  • Hospital stay: The length of your hospital stay will depend on the type of surgery and your individual recovery progress. It can range from a few days to a couple of weeks.
  • Pain management: Your healthcare team will help manage your pain with appropriate medications and offer guidance on how to alleviate discomfort during your recovery.
  • Stoma care education: A stoma nurse will provide hands-on training for stoma care, including cleaning, changing the pouch, and monitoring for complications.
  • Gradual return to normal activities: As you recover, you’ll gradually be able to return to your daily activities, including work, exercise, and social events.


Follow-Up Appointments and Ongoing Care

After you’re discharged from the hospital, you’ll have follow-up appointments with your healthcare team to monitor your recovery and address any concerns. These appointments may involve:

Ongoing care and support from your healthcare team, as well as engagement with support groups and other resources, can help ensure a smooth transition to life with a stoma.



Understanding what to expect before stoma surgery is essential for easing anxiety and ensuring you feel well-prepared for the procedure.

From preoperative assessments and consultations to mental and emotional preparation, being informed about each step of the process can help you approach your surgery with confidence.

By partnering with your healthcare team and seeking support from friends, family, and support groups, you can successfully navigate the journey to a fulfilling life with a stoma.

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Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Always follow the advice from your GP or healthcare professional