A stoma is a piece of bowel brought through a small incision in the wall of the abdomen onto the skin surface. It is then turned back on itself like the cuff of a sleeve and stitched. Stomas vary considerably in diameter and length according to the type of ostomy and the handiwork of the surgeon.
Colostomates will usually have their stoma situated on their left side, slightly below the level of the navel; it will be quite short (5 to 10mm) or even lush with the surrounding skin.
Ileostomates will have their stoma on their right side; the diameter will be roughly 35mm and the length about 30mm, although it is probably true to say that no two stomas are exactly alike!
Urostomy stomas are usually on the right hand side of the abdomen, similar in diameter to those for ileostomates, and are often somewhat longer in an effort to form a spout which will lead the urine well away from the surrounding skin.
A stoma is pink and moist, and contracts from time to time due to peristalsis (intermittent contractions of the alimentary canal which facilitate the passage of its contents). Its covering is much more delicate than skin and therefore bleeds easily, particularly in the early weeks or months. The stoma is like the lining of your cheek and when rubbed may bleed slightly, but should stop promptly. If the bleeding continues, cover the stoma with a cold, wet pad and wait for 3 to 5 minutes. Do not keep dabbing the spot as this will prevent clot formation. Notify your stoma nurse or doctor immediately if you are concerned.
Very occasionally a stoma may prolapse or retract and surgical refashioning may be required.