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Like most people who are preparing for ostomy surgery, you may be wondering what to expect. It's normal to wonder how your life will change in the immediate weeks following surgery and beyond.

Your professional healthcare team is your best resource for answering all your questions and getting you back to the life you love. Below, discover their roles in your recovery, as well as some questions to consider asking when you meet with them.

Your surgeon leads the team

When you see your surgeon before your operation, he or she will discuss which type of stoma is best for you. This will depend on the type of surgery you need. He or she will also discuss whether the stoma is going to be temporary or permanent. At that visit, your surgeon may also give you the name of an ostomy care nurse.

Your ostomy nurse is your best resource

A specialized ostomy nurse (sometimes called a wound ostomy continence (WOC) nurse, enterostomal (ET) nurse, or stoma care nurse) is a partner, guide and teacher in your ostomy journey. As you adjust to life with an ostomy, your nurse will be your go-to person.

If you are able to meet with a nurse before your surgery, he or she will help you prepare for surgery and adjust to life with a stoma. At this pre-surgery visit, your nurse will find out as much as possible about your individual lifestyle and needs. From this discussion, your nurse and surgeon will recommend the best position for your stoma. Then at the time of your surgery, the nurse will mark this position on your abdomen (belly) so that the surgeon can see where to form the stoma.

If you would like to meet with someone who has had an ostomy, your nurse may be able to make arrangements.

If a specialized ostomy nurse is not available before your surgery, you can contact your local ostomy support group. They can put you in touch with someone either in your community or an alternate healthcare professional who can provide you with the guidance you need.

Choose an appropriate stoma placement

The first step in preventive care starts with the selection of the best place for your stoma. A poorly placed stoma can cause the pouching system to fail, in addition to causing skin and leakage problems.
If time permits, it is important to discuss the placement of your stoma with your surgeon. Depending on your medical condition or injury, this may happen either at your surgeon’s office or at the hospital. Here are some important guidelines that should be followed:

  • The stoma site should be viewable and easily reached so that you can manage pouching changes on your own
  • Ideally, the stoma should not be placed near or around skin folds, scars or bony prominences, so that the pouching system can adhere flat to the skin
  • Placement should be evaluated in sitting, standing and bending positions

Other questions you may want to ask

Facing surgery can be difficult and stressful, and you might not remember all the questions you have during your pre-surgery appointments. Writing down a list of questions and bringing that list with you to these appointments can help you feel assured that all of your concerns are being addressed.

If possible, it’s also smart to bring a trusted friend or family member with you to your appointments, to take notes and offer support.

Here are some common questions for people facing ostomy surgery:

  • Describe my stoma to me (height, position, size, appearance). What should I expect?
  • Will my stoma be permanent or temporary?
  • How does the stoma work?
  • Will my stoma be visible under my clothes?
  • What does a pouch look like (size, types, colors, style)?
  • How do I change the pouch?
  • Will the pouch leak?
  • Where do I get supplies?
  • How much do they cost?
  • Will I have to change my diet?
  • When can I go back to work?
  • Will I be able to go out with family and friends?
  • How will my ostomy affect my sex life?
  • Will I be able to travel?
  • Where can I get extra help and support?
  • Will I need any special care when I get home from the hospital?
  • Will my medical insurance require a referral?
  • Will my medical insurance cover the procedure? How much of the cost will I be responsible for paying on my own?
  • Will my medical insurance cover the cost of my ostomy supplies?