What is a prolapsed stoma?

What is a prolapsed stoma?


A stoma is considered to be prolapsed when the bowel protrudes to a larger extent than anticipated. This can vary for the individual, anything from a few centimetres to more than ten. Experiencing a stoma prolapse can be distressing and hard to come to terms with, however, it is usually not said to be serious. An ostomy prolapse must be looked at by a medical professional such as a stoma nurse. A larger bag or larger ostomy bag hole may be needed, for example, to account for the prolapse.

When should I worry?

Your stoma nurse or a medical professional should explain to you how to look after your prolapsed stoma and what signs you should look out for that may require medical attention. If your stoma stays a normal colour and still works as normal, this is usually no cause for concern. If your stoma turns purple, black, stops functioning normally, bleeds more, becomes painful or develops ulcers, you should seek medical advice as soon as possible. Your ostomy should naturally reduce itself when you decrease abdominal pressure through laying down or manually reducing it but if it doesn't, again, seek medical advice. There are some management tips in this blog post.

Why does a stoma prolapse happen?

A pink background with a hand from the right hand side holding a half-extended pink slinky toy

A stoma prolapse can happen for a number of reasons such as:

  • Excessively exerting your abdomen through lifting etc
  • In infants, poorly developed abdominal muscles
  • A hole made too big in the abdominal wall during surgery
  • Obesity
  • Increased pressure in the abdomen eg pregnancy, coughing, sneezing or even sitting up

How can I reduce a stoma prolapse?

This is definitely something to get advice on from a medical professional first so that they can recommend which ways are most likely to work for your individual case.

Usually, as explained above, your ostomy prolapse should reduce naturally when you lay down. It is important you lay flat and look up to the ceiling as straining to try and see the prolapse can put pressure on the abdominal muscles, which in turn can cause the prolapse to stay longer.

Sometimes, it may need a bit more help. When laying down, again, looking at the ceiling, try feeling for your prolapsed stoma and place a finger on the prolapsed end. Lift the end of the ostomy up and apply gentle pressure downwards. If your stoma is not swollen then it should slide back into the opening.

If your ostomy prolapse is swollen, try using a cold compress to decrease it. Wrap some ice in a towel and place this over your stoma for no longer than 5 minutes at once. You should keep your ostomy bag on whilst doing this. 

Put some sugar on it

Granulated sugar on a table with a sugar heart on top

Yes, you read it right!

If your prolapsed stoma is swollen, sugar can be used to decrease this, even if it can be a little messy. Sugar draws the extra fluid out of the swelling which can reduce the size. This can lead to a syrup-type fluid in your bag.

Household sugar can be used liberally directly onto the stoma and left for between 20-30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Granted, this is a messy way round it, so another idea can be to put a new ostomy bag on and place the sugar in your ostomy bag via the outlet then close it, and then when you're laid down on your back, encourage the sugar to spread over your prolapse. If you are using a closed ostomy bag, you will need to add the sugar into the bag before you put it on. 

Surgical intervention

If your prolapse becomes hard to manage or you're experiencing problems such as pain or discolouration, surgery may be needed. This usually involves removing the prolapse and re-siting your ostomy. 

Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy's, experience of living with a permanent ileostomy, Crohn's Disease and from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.

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