What is a colostomy?
A colostomy is a form of 'stoma'*, which is a type of small pouch or 'bag' which sometimes needs to be fitted to a patient after undergoing surgery to the bowel. This is needed where the natural path for solid waste down to the anus cannot be used. Depending on the procedure and the outcome of that procedure, a colostomy can be either temporary or permanent.
A temporary colostomy is used where the section of bowel that has been operated on needs some time to recover - this can be anything from weeks to some months, at which point another procedure allows the 'reconnection' of the bowel to the anal canal, allowing normal bowel movements to resume.
In cases where a bowel condition (for example bowel cancer or inflammatory bowel disease) has affected either the anus or the rectum, a permanent colostomy may be required.
What is an ileostomy?
An ileostomy is essentially the same as a colostomy, except the stoma is from the upper small bowel, as opposed to the large bowel.
* the word 'stoma' literally means 'opening' or 'mouth' - from Greek.