Ileostomy - Reversing a temporary ileostomy

If your ileostomy is intended to be temporary, further surgery will be needed to reverse it at a later date.

The reversal operation will only be carried out when you are in good health and fully recovered from the effects of the original ileostomy operation. This will usually be several weeks, months or sometimes even longer after the initial surgery.

There's no time limit for having an ileostomy reversed and some people may live with one for several years before it is reversed.

Reversing a loop ileostomy is a relatively straightforward procedure that is carried out under general anaesthetic. An incision is made around the stoma and the section of small intestine is pulled out of abdomen (tummy). The area that had been divided to form the stoma is then stitched back together and placed back inside the abdomen.

It is also sometimes possible to reverse an end ileostomy if most of the colon (large intestine) has been sealed and left inside the abdomen. However, the surgeon will need to make a larger incision to locate and reattach the small and large intestines. Therefore, it takes longer to recover from this type of surgery and there's a greater risk of complications.

Recovering from ileostomy reversal surgery

Most people are well enough to leave hospital within three to five days of having ileostomy reversal surgery.

While you recover, you may have diarrhoea and you may need to go to the toilet more often than normal. It can take a few weeks for these problems to settle and your bowel activity may never return to the same as it was before you had the ileostomy operation. If necessary, your GP can prescribe medication to relieve diarrhoea until things improve.

You may also experience a sore anus after the reversal operation. This should improve as the anus becomes used to having stools pass through it again, although common barrier creams can help.

The reversal operation is usually a smaller procedure than the initial ileostomy procedure. However, it still takes several weeks to fully recover.

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