A loop colostomy is a procedure that enables a person to pass stool when their bowel is not functioning correctly. It involves surgeons opening up a loop of the colon through the stomach to form a stoma.

A colostomy is a surgical procedure that diverts part of the large intestine through an opening in the abdomen. The opening is known as a stoma, and doctors can attach a pouch here to collect stools.

People may require a colostomy when part of their bowel is not functioning correctly. The loop colostomy procedure can be temporary or permanent.

Read on to learn more about loop colostomies, including what the procedure involves and how it works.

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A loop colostomy refers to an often temporary procedure that involves a surgeon pulling a loop of the large bowel through an incision in the abdomen. The surgeon then opens the loop to form two new openings. These openings are known as a stoma.

The stoma has two openings that are close together. One opening connects to the functioning part of the large bowel, which is where the waste will leave the body after the operation. The other connects to the inactive portion of the bowel, leading to the anus.

The United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. (UOAA) explains that stool will pass through one of the openings, and the other may only produce mucus. The stool will collect in a pouch that attaches to the stoma.

However, if a person’s colon and rectum are still intact, a person may sometimes feel the need to pass a bowel movement from their rectum. This is normal, and mucus and sometimes leftover stool can pass through the rectum.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) explains that surgeons can perform ascending, descending, and sigmoid colostomies, depending on which part of the bowel is affected. In addition, colostomies can be temporary or permanent.

Descending and sigmoid colostomies can have a double-barrel or single-barrel opening. The single-barrel, or end colostomy, is more common.

Transverse colostomies

There are two types of transverse colostomies: loop and double-barrel.

The ACS states that transverse colostomy is one of the most common types. The transverse colostomy is in the upper abdomen, either in the middle or toward the right side of the body. This type of colostomy allows the stool to leave the body before it reaches the descending colon.

Single-barrel or end colostomy

An end colostomy involves surgeons pulling one end of the colon through a cut in the abdominal wall. End colostomies have a round opening compared to loop colostomies, which are often oval-shaped.

Double-barrel colostomy

In a loop colostomy, doctors open up a loop of the colon — known as a double-barrel colostomy — and divide the bowel completely. They attach each opening to the skin of the abdomen as two separate stomas, which a doctor may or may not separate by the skin. One opening excretes stool and the other mucus. This smaller stoma is known as a mucus fistula.

However, sometimes doctors sew the end of the inactive part of the bowel and leave it inside the belly, leaving only one stoma. The mucus from the resting portion exits through the anus when this happens.

Loop colostomies are often temporary. The ACS advises that some of the colon problems that can lead to a transverse colostomy, such as a loop colostomy, include:

Health experts explain that doctors carry out a colostomy using open or keyhole surgery. The person will be asleep under a general anesthetic. Keyhole surgery has a lower risk of complications, and people can recover quicker.

Surgeons pull a loop of the colon out through a cut in the abdomen and open it up to form a stoma with two openings close together.

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK notes that in some people, surgeons use a support device, known as a rod or bridge, to hold the loop of the colon in place while it heals. They usually remove this after a few days.

The UOAA advises that the stoma will be swollen after surgery and may take around 6 weeks to shrink to its final size.

The NHS notes that people need to recover in the hospital for a few days after a colostomy. They may need an intravenous (IV) drip for fluids, a catheter to drain urine, or an oxygen mask to assist with breathing. A stoma nurse will show someone how to care for their stoma, including how to empty and change the pouch and how to avoid infections.

Once at home, it is advisable to avoid strenuous activities and lifting heavy objects. Adjusting to life with a stoma can be challenging, and people can seek support and advice from a qualified health professional.

A loop colostomy is reversible. However, the NHS explains that doctors only carry out a colostomy reversal if someone is in good health and fully recovered. This will usually be at least 3 months following the initial colostomy surgery.

To reverse a loop colostomy, surgeons make an incision around the stoma to access the colon. Then, they attach the upper section of the colon to what remains. Typically, most people are well enough to leave the hospital 3–10 days after having a colostomy reversal.

A loop colostomy is a surgical procedure that involves passing a loop of the colon through an incision in the abdomen. Surgeons will create an opening, known as a stoma, that allows a person to pass stool through this opening. The stool will collect in a pouch that attaches to the stoma.

Doctors may recommend a loop colostomy for several conditions, including cancer, IBD, or blockages in the intestine. Loop colostomies are often temporary, and doctors can reverse them with further surgery once a person fully recovers and is in good health. People may need to adjust to life with a colostomy and can obtain help and support from their medical team.