A stoma is when part of the bowel (usually either colon or small intestine) is brought out to the skin of the anterior abdominal wall. Faeces pass through the stoma into a bag which collects it and can then be emptied.
A colostomy is when colon is brought out to the abdominal wall. This usually is created on the left side. The stool character and frequency is similar to what is normally passed through the anus.
An ileostomy is when the ileum (last part of the small intestine) is brought out to the abdominal wall. This is usually through the right side. The stool or effluent is usually more watery initially and then turns into a pasty consistency. Ileostomies have to be emptied more times than colostomies.
A temporary stoma is one that can be reversed at a later date. These are used when joining the bowel back together is considered unsafe (usually in an emergency setting) or when it is used to rest an anastomosis (a bowel join) to allow healing without bowel content going through.
A permanent stoma is one that cannot be reversed. These are usually only needed in very low rectal or anal cancers.
A stomal therapist is a highly specialised nurse that cares for patients with stomas. They are involved in pre-operative, peri-operative and post-operative care of stomas. If you require a stoma or if there is a possibility that you may require a stoma, you will be referred to a stomal therapist. They will mark the site for the stoma and will answer any questions that you have regarding stomas. More information can be found at www.stomaltherapy.com