An ileostomy is a surgery which creates an opening from the small intestine to the outside of your body, usually through one side of your torso. This opening, also known as a stoma, allows bodily waste products to pass into an external bag or pouch. After a period of time with a stoma, your doctor may decide that you should have the ileostomy reversed and return to a normal pattern of excretion through your gastrointestinal system.
The ileostomy procedure essentially reroutes a loop of your intestine to the stoma opening created at your skin surface. In an ileostomy reversal, the routing of the intestine is restored to its pre-ileostomy function--after ileostomy, your food will travel through your stomach and intestines and will be excreted through the anus. Instead of disposing of bodily waste through a bag or pouch attached to your stoma, you will be able to use the toilet normally.
The January 2010 issue of the "Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England" reports the results of a study regarding loop ileostomy reversal and patient recovery. Examining a total of 80 patients who underwent ileostomy reversal between 2001 and 2006, the study found that nine out of 10 patients were able to eat a solid diet within two days of surgery. Overall, one quarter of patients experienced some kind of complications relating to the surgery, with wound infection and obstruction of the small intestine being the most common problems.
Following ileostomy reversal surgery, it is common to experience some disruption in your digestive and toileting routines. For the period of time you had the ileostomy, your lower intestine--the colon--did not play a part in processing bodily waste, as it was bypassed by the stoma. It may take some time for colon function to return to normal. Some people experience post-surgical bleeding in the digestive system, and the need to visit the toilet frequently throughout the day.
MedlinePlus recommends eating small, frequent meals while your system readjusts after ileostomy or ileostomy reversal surgery. If you eat five or six small meals per day, drink at least six to eight cups of fluid daily, and thoroughly chew your food. These measures should reduce digestive problems following surgery. Red-colored foods can give the impression that you may be bleeding--it is best to avoid foods such as beets, red peppers, cherry drinks or tomato products following surgery so that you can discern between food-related stool redness and intestinal bleeding.
Any surgery may have complications, and ileostomy reversal surgery is no exception. Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect post-surgical bleeding, infection or other complications. Watch for signs that you may be dehydrated, and seek medical advice if you experience a rash or persistent diarrhea.