UC Davis Health Cancer Center

Ostomy Education for Patients and Providers

We understand that caring for an ostomy can be a big adjustment for many people. Whether you are planning to undergo surgery for an ostomy, already have an ostomy, or are providing care for someone who has one, know that you are not alone. Ostomy or continent diversion surgery can occur at any age and does not lower life expectancy. Each year, thousands of people of all ages have ostomy surgery in the US. Here at UC Davis Health, we have a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians, and wound and ostomy care specialists available to help you.

We invite you to explore the information here on our ostomy resource and education web pages. We hope this information will provide you with a better understanding of ostomies and their care and will offer comfort in knowing that at UC Davis Health, you have an entire team on your side.

What is an Ostomy

An ostomy is a surgically created opening on the abdominal wall of the body for waste products to move out of the body. Surgeons create ostomies when a medical condition is so severe that an ostomy offers a better alternative. Ostomy surgery is a life-saving procedure that allows bodily waste to pass through a surgically created stoma on the abdomen into a prosthetic known as a ‘pouch’ or ‘ostomy bag’ on the outside of the body or an internal surgically created pouch for continent diversion surgeries.

This surgical procedure changes the way urine or stool exits the body by rerouting it from its usual path because of malfunctioning parts of the urinary or digestive system. An ostomy can be temporary or permanent. The most common types are colostomy, ileostomy, and urostomy.  

What is a Stoma

A stoma is an opening created by ostomy surgery. It is located on the abdomen and is dark pink in color. Most people do not feel pain or pressure within their stoma since stomas do not have nerve endings and cannot feel sensations like heat or cold.

For most ostomies, a pouch is worn over the stoma to collect stool or urine. For some people, it is possible to have a continent diversion, an alternative to a conventional ostomy that eliminates the necessity for a pouch.

The source material for this website was developed in collaboration with other University of California campuses especially UCSF.

Disclaimer:  Patient care requires the use of considerable clinical judgement and information from this website should not be used in isolation to make patient care decisions. For any specific questions, please contact your healthcare provider.