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Stomas of the Small and Large Intestine Treatment & Management

  • Author: Robert K Minkes, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Harsh Grewal, MD, FACS, FAAP  more...
 
Updated: Apr 27, 2015
 

Medical Therapy

Stomas are created for the treatment of certain surgical diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract when no medical alternatives are available.

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Surgical Therapy

The operation performed depends on the specific disease being treated. Injuries to the rectum and sphincter are difficult to repair in the initial setting. Minor injuries may be repaired primarily. For more extensive injuries, exploratory laparotomy should be performed to rule out intra-abdominal injuries, and a diverting colostomy should be created.[4] Debridement of the perineum should be avoided in the initial setting. The anal sphincter can be reconstructed later.

In selected cases, performing ostomies by means of minimally invasive surgical technique (laparoscopic surgery) is possible.

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Preoperative Details

Stomas are created in both elective and emergency settings. A physician, enterostomal therapist, or nurse specialist should counsel children undergoing elective colostomy as well as their families. This preparation reduces their anxiety and makes postoperative management easier. When safe to do so, the bowel is prepared mechanically and with antibiotics; however, this preparation should be avoided when an obstruction is present.

The potential stoma sites should be marked preoperatively. In older children, the site should be marked with the patient in both sitting and supine positions to ensure that the stoma appliance fits securely. The stoma site should be selected to avoid fat folds, scars, and bony prominences. A useful selection technique is drawing a vertical line through the umbilicus to the pubis and a transverse line through the inferior margin of the umbilicus. A disk the size of a stoma faceplate can then be used to determine the location.

When an adequate site for all positions is found, the site should be marked with ink. After the induction of general anesthesia in the operating room, a fine needle can be used to scratch the site prior to preparation of the abdominal skin.

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Intraoperative Details

Construction of a stoma requires the bowel to be mobile enough to be brought through the abdominal wall. Tension on the mesentery should be avoided. Ideally, stomas are brought out through separate skin incisions, but ultimately, the site used is dictated by the clinical situation.

In older children and adolescents, stomas should be brought through the rectus abdominis to prevent parastomal hernias. A disk of skin is removed, and the fascia is incised longitudinally. The stoma is matured with absorbable suture after the abdominal incision is closed. In neonates and infants, the stomas may be covered with petrolatum gauze until bowel function returns. In older children, a one-piece stoma appliance that can be cut to just fit around the stoma should be applied in the operating room.

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Postoperative Details

Return of bowel function varies and depends on the clinical setting. Ileostomies and colostomies usually begin to function in 4-5 days. In the first few days, clear or serosanguinous fluid may appear. This finding should not be mistaken for an indication of bowel activity. An enterostomal therapist or nurse specialist should be involved early in the care of the newly formed stoma and in the instruction of the patient and family regarding long-term care of the stoma.

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Follow-up

Small bowel stomas (ie, jejunostomy, ileostomy) and proximal colostomies have liquid output. Volumes may be large, and the fluid may irritate the skin. Use of an appropriately fitting stoma bag is essential. Various stoma appliances and products are available. Stoma appliances should be able to remain in place for several days. Improperly fitted appliances leak and lead to more complications.

Local irritation, skin excoriation, and yeast infections can be treated with appropriate topical medication and skin care. Mild stoma bleeding is not uncommon and usually stops spontaneously. Children with high ostomy output require close follow-up for dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

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Complications

Stoma-related complications

Many potential stoma-related complications are recognized.[5, 6]

Skin irritation and infection are the most common complications with pediatric stomas. Excoriation from stoma effluent, candidal infection, and dermatitis are frequent; improper location or construction of the stoma and poor stoma care are often responsible. (See the images below.) Local wound care and patient or caretaker education often corrects the problem. Occasionally, surgical revision is needed.

Appearance of violaceous rash commonly due to Cand Appearance of violaceous rash commonly due to Candida albicans. String coming out of the distal stoma was passed through a distal stricture and out of the anus.
Skin irritation, stoma retraction, and wound infec Skin irritation, stoma retraction, and wound infection after placement of a stoma through a laparotomy incision.

Wound infection, wound separation, dehiscence, and postoperative sepsis may also occur after formation of a stoma, particularly if the stoma has been brought out through the wound (see the image below.)

Wound infection and postoperative sepsis may also Wound infection and postoperative sepsis may also occur after formation of a stoma. Note the redness of the skin at the laparotomy incision site and evidence of soft tissue abdominal wall infection.

Stoma prolapse also is common in children. Prolapse can occur in end or loop stomas. Both proximal and distal bowel segments can protrude many centimeters (see the image below), though this complication may be more common in the distal limb. A variety of surgical techniques have been used, with mixed success, to reduce the incidence of prolapse.

Prolapse of loop colostomy. Both proximal and dist Prolapse of loop colostomy. Both proximal and distal limbs have prolapsed. This may or may not cause intestinal obstruction.

Once prolapse occurs, it often becomes a chronic problem that can be difficult to correct. In most cases, prolapse is an unsightly nuisance but is well tolerated by the child. Surgical revision is indicated for the rare instances of ischemia, obstruction, ulceration, or chronic bleeding. Stoma reversal is the optimal treatment.

Stoma retraction results in a stoma that is flush with the skin, and difficulty in controlling the effluent may lead to skin breakdown. Retraction of a loop colostomy results in a blowhole configuration that allows proximal contents to spill into the distal segment. If distal diversion is necessary, revision may be required. A retracted end stoma often re-protrudes spontaneously. Usually, when the stoma is temporary, only short-term measures are needed until the stoma is reversed. Permanent stomas that have retracted may require surgical revision.

Intestinal obstruction is also common. Stoma strictures can occur at the skin level, the fascial level, or both. Partial obstruction can result in hyperperistalsis and hypersecretion; massive fluid losses through the stoma may result in dehydration. If a stoma stricture is suspected, the size of the opening can be determined by carefully passing metal sounds through the stoma.

Attempts at dilating the stoma are usually unsuccessful and may cause intestinal perforation. Passage of a soft catheter proximal to the stricture can provide temporary decompression. Most significant stoma strictures require surgical revision; a local procedure with minimal morbidity is often possible. Parastomal hernias usually require surgical intervention.

Other causes of obstruction include luminal plugging caused by ingested food, adhesive intestinal obstruction, internal hernia, and volvulus. Obstruction is usually obvious, and the diagnosis is based on the patient's history and findings at physical examination and on plain radiography. In all patients with a bowel obstruction, a nasogastric tube should be placed for decompression and the patient should receive intravenous hydration.

A study with water-soluble contrast material administered through the stoma provides diagnostic information and, in most cases of luminal obstruction, is therapeutic. Most adhesive obstructions improve with nasogastric decompression and bowel rest. Prompt surgical exploration is required in patients with suspected ischemic or gangrenous bowel, clinical deterioration, or obstruction that does not rapidly resolve with nonsurgical therapy.

Psychological issues can be significant for the child and the family.[7] These effects can be particularly important in adolescents, who are dealing with body image and sexuality. A team approach to providing preoperative counseling, postoperative care, and rehabilitation is crucial to the well-being of the patient. The participation of an enterostomal therapist or nurse specialist is essential. The age of the patient and an understanding of physical and psychological changes that children with stomas experience must be carefully considered.

In summary, potential stoma-related problems include the following:

  • Skin irritation - Chemical, mechanical, allergic
  • Intestinal obstruction - Adhesion, volvulus, internal hernia
  • Wound-related complications - Infection, separation, dehiscence
  • Infections
  • Prolapse
  • Retraction
  • Stricture
  • Fistula
  • Ulceration
  • Leakage
  • Bleeding
  • Parastomal hernia
  • Fluid and electrolyte imbalances
  • Psychological trauma

Fluid and electrolyte problems

Physiologic abnormalities related to loss of fluid and electrolytes are common in young patients with stomas, particularly when the stoma is in the proximal gastrointestinal tract. Fluid and electrolyte losses from any stoma can be significant, and replacement is usually required. (See Table 1 below.)

Table 1. Electrolyte Composition of Enteral Fluids. (Open Table in a new window)

Fluid Na+



mEq/L



Cl-



mEq/L



K+



mEq/L



HCO3-



mEq/L



H+



mEq/L



Saliva 30-60 15-40 20 15-50 N/A
Gastric 60-100 90-140 10-20 N/A 30-100
Duodenal 140 80 5 50 N/A
Bile 140 100 5-10 40-50 N/A
Pancreatic 140 75 5-15 90 N/A
Jejunal 100 100 5-10 10-20 N/A
Ileal 130 110 10 30 N/A
Colonic 60 40 30 20 N/A
Diarrhea 130 30 90 N/A N/A

Duodenal stomas are rare, but duodenal fistulas may occur after trauma or surgery. Duodenal fistulas typically have high output and therefore are difficult to control. Proximal jejunal stomas also tend to have high-volume output, with fluid and electrolyte losses similar to those of duodenal fistulas, except for a slightly lower sodium loss from the jejunum. Pancreatic and biliary fluids also empty into the duodenum, and secretion of these fluids may substantially increase if feeding into the stomach is initiated.

Often, the proximal bowel can adapt to the fluid and electrolyte losses of a distal small bowel stoma. After a period of adaptation, the absorptive capacity of the small bowel proximal to the ileostomy increases, and the bowel can reduce ileostomy electrolyte losses by as much as two thirds of its initial output. Adaptation of water absorption is a much slower process. Ileostomy output should average 10-15 mL/kg/day. A doubling of usual stoma output should be considered abnormal.

Normal ileostomy output results in the loss of two to three times the normal amount of salt and water, and children with these stomas are susceptible to dehydration. In infants, sodium and bicarbonate losses may exceed renal conservation mechanisms. Infants are prone to dehydration, and they may not gain appropriate amounts of weight unless salt and bicarbonate supplementation is provided.

Although failure to thrive as a consequence of total body sodium depletion (TBSD) has been reported in neonates with high-output ileostomies, its has not been widely reported in older children. A case series by O'Neil et al described four older children (age range, 18 months to 19 years) who had TBSD and experienced unintentional weight loss despite adequate energy intake.[8] Thus, the relation between TBSD and failure to thrive may extend well beyond the neonatal period and possibly into adulthood.

Patients with long-standing ileostomies often have hypomagnesemia and decreased absorption of vitamin B12 and folic acid. Patients with ileostomies also have a higher incidence of renal calculi and gallstones than that of the general population. Also, they may have iron deficiency and fat malabsorption.

Intestinal contents become progressively more solid as they pass through the colon to the rectum. Ileal and cecal contents are liquid and erosive to the skin. The contents of transverse colon stomas are typically semiliquid and less erosive; those of the descending colon tend to be solid and nonreactive with skin. These generalizations are true when the proximal bowel has sufficient length to allow absorption of nutrients and fluid. In children with short bowel syndrome, fluid and electrolyte losses can be massive, even with a distal colostomy.

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Outcome and Prognosis

The outcome of patients with intestinal stomas depends on the underlying condition. Fortunately, most stomas in infants and children are reversible. Reestablishing bowel continuity depends on factors such as the underlying disease, the general medical condition of the child, and the presence of stoma-related complications. Understanding the anatomy prior to stoma closure is crucial. In most instances, a preoperative distal contrast-enhanced study should be performed.

In general, the prognosis for patients with intestinal stomas is good. The exception is in patients with stomas and short gut syndrome. In such cases, reversal of the stoma should be attempted as soon as possible in order to maximize the absorptive capacity of the intestines. However, in many cases of short gut syndrome, ostomy reversal is not possible because of other associated comorbid conditions. The most common cause of short gut syndrome in North America is necrotizing enterocolitis.

In a retrospective cohort study intended to compare clinical outcomes of loop and divided colostomies in patients with anorectal malformations, Oda et al found that the former, because of the higher incidence of prolapse, carried a higher total complication rate than the latter but that the rates of other complications (eg, megarectum and urinary tract infection) did not differ significantly between the two stoma types.[9]

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Robert K Minkes, MD, PhD Professor of Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Southwestern Medical School; Medical Director and Chief of Surgical Services, Children's Medical Center of Dallas-Legacy Campus

Robert K Minkes, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Mark V Mazziotti, MD Associate Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children's Hospital

Mark V Mazziotti, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American College of Surgeons, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jacob C Langer, MD, FRCS 

Jacob C Langer, MD, FRCS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Association for Academic Surgery, Canadian Medical Association, Ontario Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, Society of University Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Kim M McHard, RN, MSN, CPNP-PC Senior Advanced Nurse Practitioner, General Pediatric Surgery, Manager for Plano APS, Children's Medical Center Plano

Kim M McHard, RN, MSN, CPNP-PC is a member of the following medical societies: Children's Oncology Group, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American Pediatric Surgical Nurses Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Andre Hebra, MD Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine; Surgeon-in-Chief, Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital

Andre Hebra, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, Florida Medical Association, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Children's Oncology Group, International Pediatric Endosurgery Group, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons, South Carolina Medical Association, Southeastern Surgical Congress, Southern Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Harsh Grewal, MD, FACS, FAAP Professor of Surgery, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University; Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Cooper University Hospital

Harsh Grewal, MD, FACS, FAAP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Association for Surgical Education, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons, Southwestern Surgical Congress, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Children's Oncology Group, International Pediatric Endosurgery Group

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Kurt D Newman, MD 

Kurt D Newman, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Pediatric Surgical Association, Society of Surgical Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Multiple stomas in the abdomen of a 3-year-old child who underwent surgery as an infant for high imperforate anus. A divided colostomy was performed to divert the stool. The other end was brought out through the skin (mucous fistula) to allow evacuation of mucus and gas. A vesicostomy was performed because of a neurogenic bladder.
Severe injury to the perineum and anal sphincter (caused by a lawn mower) in a 9-year-old boy. A diverting colostomy was performed. Several weeks later, a skin graft was placed over the defect. After reconstruction of the anal sphincter, the colostomy was reversed.
Diagrams illustrate pediatric stomas. (A) End stoma (inset shows everting maturation); (B) double-barrel stoma: End stoma and mucous fistula are divided and brought through the same incision (inset shows closed mucus fistula sutured to abdominal wall); (C) loop stoma; (D) decompressing blowhole stoma; (E) Bishop-Koop stoma; and (F) Santulli stoma
Divided end ileostomy and ileal mucous fistula. The ileostomy is brought out through a separate skin incision.
End ileostomy with closed distal limb (also known as Hartman pouch).
End ileostomy with closed distal intestine after multiple resections. The segment without function is left in situ, and a stoma is used for decompression.
End-to-side anastomosis created in an infant with a complicated meconium ileus, with distal stoma used for irrigation (also known as the Bishop-Koop ileostomy).
Potential sites for neonate and infant stomas.
Potential sites for stomas in an older child or adolescent. Ideally, a stoma is brought through the rectus muscle in a position that allows placement of a stoma appliance.
Stoma brought directly through the umbilicus.
Stoma matured through a separate inferior umbilical incision.
Appearance of violaceous rash commonly due to Candida albicans. String coming out of the distal stoma was passed through a distal stricture and out of the anus.
Skin irritation, stoma retraction, and wound infection after placement of a stoma through a laparotomy incision.
Prolapse of loop colostomy. Both proximal and distal limbs have prolapsed. This may or may not cause intestinal obstruction.
Wound infection and postoperative sepsis may also occur after formation of a stoma. Note the redness of the skin at the laparotomy incision site and evidence of soft tissue abdominal wall infection.
An 8-month-old infant with a stoma.
Table 1. Electrolyte Composition of Enteral Fluids.
Fluid Na+



mEq/L



Cl-



mEq/L



K+



mEq/L



HCO3-



mEq/L



H+



mEq/L



Saliva 30-60 15-40 20 15-50 N/A
Gastric 60-100 90-140 10-20 N/A 30-100
Duodenal 140 80 5 50 N/A
Bile 140 100 5-10 40-50 N/A
Pancreatic 140 75 5-15 90 N/A
Jejunal 100 100 5-10 10-20 N/A
Ileal 130 110 10 30 N/A
Colonic 60 40 30 20 N/A
Diarrhea 130 30 90 N/A N/A
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