Can my stoma be reversed?

Whether your stoma can be reversed or not is dependent on many factors. For example, whereas a colostomy and an ileostomy can be temporary, a urostomy is always permanent. For your stoma to be reversed, there has to be a big enough section of healthy bowel left as, otherwise, it won’t be possible. But let's look at it in a little more detail!

How is a stoma reversed?

Having your stoma reversed means that your bowel that has previously been separated will be reattached. This will either be done with stitches or, in some cases, your bowels will be stapled back together. The hole in your belly where your stoma used to be will likely be closed with stitches. These are just general guidelines, though and the exact process of your stoma reversal fully depends on your individual situation.

Who can have a stoma reversal?

There is no definite answer to this question and whether your stoma can be reversed or not will fully depend on your specific situation. Generally, you will likely know before your stoma surgery if it’s supposed to be permanent or temporary. If it’s temporary, it will have to be fully healed in order to be reversed. This usually takes anywhere between 3 and 12 months. In addition to that, the following boxes will also have to be ticked:

  • You’re currently not receiving chemotherapy
  • The muscle control in your anal sphincters needs to be good enough for you to have proper bowel control
  • You have enough healthy bowels and rectum left
  • Your bowels have to be healthy
  • You have to be in good enough health to get through surgery

To work out whether you tick all the necessary boxes, you might have to have a couple of tests like a rectal exam or a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

What can you expect from your stoma reversal surgery?

If your stoma reversal is a straightforward procedure, it probably won’t take much longer than one to two hours. If you have other things that need to be taken care of in the same surgery, like a hernia repair, it will take longer and might be more complicated. The procedure can either be done via keyhole surgery or open surgery and will always be done under general aesthetic.

Here’s what you can expect after your stoma reversal surgery

How long will it take to recover?

In the first 24 hours after your stoma reversal surgery, you’ll probably have to stick to a liquid diet to give your bowel a bit of a rest. You’ll probably be able to switch to a soft diet after a day or two. Your nurse or doctor will probably encourage you to move around as much as possible after your surgery to get some activity back into your bowel in order to help with recovery. Don’t worry, though! We’re not talking about running a marathon here; slowly walking up and down the hospital corridor will be more like it. If everything goes well, you’ll likely have to stay in hospital for three to five days after your surgery. You’ll have to have a bowel movement before being able to go home and your nurse and doctor need to be absolutely sure that everything is going smoothly.

Caring for yourself at home

When you get discharged, there’s a chance that you might be feeling a little tired and weak from the surgery. It’s important that you still go for regular short walks, though, as this can help you to quickly regain any lost energy. Your nurse or doctor will probably ask you to do things fairly similarly to how you did them after your initial ostomy surgery. This means you’ll have to avoid any heavy lifting, bending over, or any other strenuous activities for the first 6 to 8 weeks. You can start driving your car again once you feel comfortable that you could do an emergency stop if it needed to be. This will usually also be around the 6 to 8 week mark. If you’re unsure whether you’re ready to return to your usual activities, it’s best to have a conversation with your nurse or doctor. They’ll be able to offer some guidance based on your individual situation.

Will my bowel movements be normal straight after surgery?

Your bowel movements can be a little unpredictable right after your stoma reversal and you can experience one or more of the following:

  • Pain when going for a poo
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Loose stools or diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Strong & sudden urge to go for a poo
  • Not being able to fully empty your bowels when you go for a poo

How to regain your bowel control after your stoma reversal surgery

Diet

You might find it better to eat smaller, low-fibre meals to begin with and then to slowly increase the quantity and variety of your foods over time. It’s also super important that you drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation; 6 to 8 glasses of water per day is a good amount to aim for. If you’re prone to getting loose stools or diarrhoea, you might also want to try to avoid things like fizzy drinks, alcohol, caffeine, high-fibre vegetables, as well as spicy and fatty foods. At the start, it can be a bit confusing what does and what doesn’t agree with your belly. So why not try keeping a food diary during that time to keep track of any bad reactions to certain foods?

Retain your bowel

Your pelvic floor muscles and rectum will likely be weaker right after your stoma reversal surgery. This is because they haven’t had to do any work for quite some time. Pelvic floor exercises can help you to strengthen and tone these muscles again which will help you regain proper bowel control. Not sure where to start with your pelvic floor exercises? We’ve got you covered with our super handy guide here.

Coping with your bowel problems

Dealing with bowel problems can be very frustrating, and you might feel embarrassed or ashamed. You should, however, always speak to your nurse or doctor and ask for support if you need it. They will be able to help you learn how to cope with any bowel problems moving forward. And always remember, we’re here too! Our Customer Care team is fully trained and more than happy to talk with you about any problem you are experiencing. Just give them a ring on 0344 225 1519 or send an email to hello@myvyne.co.uk.