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What Are Ostomies and Continent Diversions?

An ostomy is a surgically-created intestinal or urinary tract diversion that modifies the normal pathway for waste elimination. In a classical ostomy, digestive waste or urine exits the body through a piece of intestine which is brought through an opening in the abdominal wall. The piece of intestine which is thus brought outside the body is called a “stoma” and is usually dark pink in color:

    drawing of stoma    Schematic drawing of a stoma (strictly speaking an “end” stoma, as there are also “loop” stomas that have two openings and a more irregular shape)

A pouching system is usually worn over the stoma to collect waste that flows out from the stoma. There are three kinds of classical ostomies with stomas of this sort.

The Three Classical Ostomies:

Continent Diversions:

As alternatives to classical ostomies, some patients can opt for “continent diversions” which avoid having to wear a pouching system. There are four main kinds of continent diversions:

Terminology Confusion:

Here are several areas where people sometimes get confused about ostomy terminology:


This page last revised 2019-03-15

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