What is a stoma?

What exactly is a Stoma?

A stoma is an opening on the abdomen, where during an operation a piece of your bowel will be pulled to the surface and sewn to your abdomen. This opening will then either be connected to your digestive or urinary system to allow either faeces or urine to pass into a bag.

It will look like a small pinkish, crinkly mound which may protrude like a spout or lie flat to your body. Stomas can be formed using the colon (colostomy) or the ileum part of the small bowel (ileostomy or urostomy). Stomas can be temporary or permanent.

A woman with a stoma
Woman with stoma
Image of a cartoon woman with a stoma
Woman with Stoma bag

Why would somebody need a Stoma?

There are lots of reasons why somebody would need a stoma. It could be due to illness such as bowel cancer, bladder cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis), diverticulitis or many other  chronic bladder or bowel related conditions. Someone may need one due to trauma or injury to the bladder or bowel or as a result of a birth injury/ tear.

The NHS estimates that there are more than 170,000 people with a stoma living in the UK. That works out at around 1 in every 500 people. In the coming years that number is expected to grow as a bowel scope screening test is offered to all men and women in the UK aged 55 years old. This test is designed to help identify any potential bowel diseases issues early which may impact the number of stoma formations. 

Stoma Types


A colostomy is formed when a piece of the colon (large bowel) is pulled through and sewn to the abdomen.  You may have either a loop colostomy or end colostomy. Loop colostomies are generally temporary and end colostomies tend to be more permanent.

You can find out more information on colostomies here.

Video courtesy of Salts Healthcare. 


An ileostomy is formed when a piece of the ileum (small bowel) is pulled through and sewn to the abdomen.  You may have either a loop ileostomy or end ileostomy. Loop ileostomies are generally temporary and end ileostomies are permanent.

You can find out more information on ileostomies here.

Video courtesy of Salts Healthcare.


A urostomy is usually formed if you need surgery to remove or bypass your bladder. A piece of your ileum (small bowel) is used to create an opening that is pulled through to your abdomen. The ileum is then attached to your ureters where urine can pass through. 

Temporary or Permanent Stoma?

For some people, a stoma may only be temporary. This may be the case if you have had a bowel injury or a section of your bowel removed due to disease and having a stoma will allow your bowel to rest and heal before being reversed. 

For some people, the option of a reversal may not be possible and the stoma created will be permanent. Reasons for this can include if the disease or injury is low down in your bowel or rectum (e.g if you have bowel cancer or rectal cancer or Crohn’s Disease) and you also have your rectum removed in the process.

Your surgeon will be able to explain the reasons as to why your stoma will either be temporary or permanent and provide the pros and cons of stoma reversal surgery.

Did you know?

There are so many different types and brands of stoma bags available and you can try different bags to find the right one that suits you and this may change over time depending on if you develop any issues with your stoma or lose/gain weight but many ostomates don’t know that they have a choice. Your stoma care provider/delivery service will be able to advise you. You can find out more about stoma home delivery services here.

A personal note...

“Before I had my stoma surgery, I didn’t even know what a stoma was, never mind all the bags and products that were available to me!  It was so overwhelming to me in the beginning and I had no idea how you went about ordering your supplies. This is why sites like Healthcare Delivery Reviews are so important. It’s a ‘one-stop shop’ where you can find out who the best service providers are.”

Gemma Savory

Please note: The information throughout these pages should be used as a guide only. Please consult your GP or medical professional for further information about your condition.

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