Osto-what?! Definitions of ostomy terminology

Laura Zappulla

Laura Zappulla

I like that people with ostomies are called ostomates, and the friendly connotation that “mate” has about it ☺

When you’re new to ostomies, getting to know all the new terms and meanings can be like learning a whole other language!!

Understanding anatomy is a feat on its own. Until I had bowel issues, ashamedly I admit I would have struggled naming all my internal organs. Now I can tell you in great description exactly what and where my large intestine, small intestine, ileum, rectum, and anus are (or were in my case!!), how they are connected and each of their functions. I still find it confusing, but I think it’s important to understand how our bodies work!

The word stoma apparently comes from a Greek word meaning opening or mouth. A Stoma is basically an opening or hole in your abdominal wall that the surgeon creates after removing or diverting part of your diseased bowel. Your intestine is rerouted so that your poo can exit the body through this stoma, which is covered/collected with an ostomy bag which can be emptied and changed regularly. Most of you already know this, but again, for anyone new to ostomies, this is something I wouldn’t have known pre-IBD!

What about an ostomy? The actual definition is a “surgical procedure that creates an artificial opening for the elimination of bodily wastes”. What sort of surgery you have will dictate which part of the bowel is removed or diverted, and what sort of ostomy is created. There are numerous types of bowel surgery –resection, colectomy, hemi-colectomy, Hartmann’s procedure, sigmoid colectomy, total colectomy, pan proctocolectomy, and J-Pouch. Ostomies (plural for ostomy!) are named depending on which part of the bowel is connected to the abdominal wall. Colostomy is if it’s the colon (part of the large intestine), and ileostomy if it’s your ileum (last part of your small intestine). Plus, the oft forgot urostomy, a surgically created opening that diverts urine away from the bladder and out of the body.

How about all the different words for what comes out of our stoma? Ie. stoma output or poop! Let’s not even go there!!!

Tack different things onto the end of osto and we get more vocabulary, eg. ostomate. I like that people with ostomies are called ostomates, and the friendly connotation that “mate” has about it ☺

Medical professionals

We haven’t even started the conversation with our stoma nurses about all the different products available yet!! Speaking of nurses, there are even a range of names we call our nurses and doctors. Depending where you’re from it might be stoma nurse, CNS (clinical nurse specialist), or stomal therapy nurse (STN).

Supplies

Looking through ostomy product catalogues, I’m always amazed at all the different types of supplies available. What are all these things used for? We have the ostomy bag. I’ve always been fine calling it a “bag” but some people don’t like the term bag so you might also hear it called a pouch or appliance. Bags come in one piece, two piece, open/drainable or closed, convex, or contour. The type you need will depend on the type of ostomy you have and your stoma nurse should recommend what’s right for you, but it is a good idea to trial a few out until you find the one that works best for you. To help apply and remove our bags and protect our skin we use adhesive removers, sprays, wipes, pastes, and barrier films. People have different names for the same product! For example, barrier or wafer, flange or base plate, ring or seal. I’ve also heard seals called bananas and boomerangs (maybe that’s an Aussie thing?!). Don’t forget all the accessories like belts, wraps, and stoma caps. Confused yet?!

Without alarming anyone, there are also some not so nice terms to look out for like peristomal skin, stoma blockage or obstruction, prolapse, and hernias. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t attempt to give definitions for all of these, but there’s plenty of info online, or ask your surgeon or stoma nurse. Try out these flash cards! https://www.coursehero.com/flashcards/504976/Ostomy/

You can have a lot of fun with ostomy lingo! I love the play on words that many bloggers have named themselves or their sites. A few examples, Feeling Ostomistic, Stoma in a teacup, Bag Lady Mama, Girls with Guts, the Stolen Colon, So Bad Ass, and of course my blog Stomalicious! My definition of Stomalicious = sexually attractive, especially with a curvaceous stoma ☺ I hope you’ve enjoyed my Ostomy ABCs!

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