Colostomies have traditionally been done with open surgeries, but laparoscopic surgery offers a less invasive option that can help limit pain, recovery time, and possible complications.

A laparoscopic colostomy is a minimally invasive way to divert stools from your colon to an exterior collection bag. It may be used to treat an intestinal injury or a chronic condition like Crohn’s.

During a colostomy, a surgeon creates a small hole, called a stoma, between the wall of your abdomen and your colon. A stoma allows you to redirect your stools to an exterior bag called an ostomy bag.

This article explains what it’s like to have a laparoscopic colostomy, including the procedure, recovery, and outlook.

A laparoscopic colostomy is a minimally invasive way to create an opening (called an “ostomy”) in your colon so that feces is diverted into an external bag. This might be done to treat a traumatic injury of the rectum or large intestine or to help manage chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease.

Open surgery is the traditional way of creating these openings, but there are risks to open abdominal surgeries.

With laparoscopic surgery, surgeons make a much smaller incision in the wall of the abdomen and withdraw the intestine using small tools inserted through the incision. A piece of intestine is drawn out and cut. One end is sealed around the surgical opening to create a stoma. The other end is sealed or secured to a new connecting point.

If your intestine is being rerouted because a portion was removed for some kind of disease or damage, the new connection is called an anastomosis. Your colostomy may be reversed once this new connection is healed. If the far end of your intestine was removed entirely or is no longer effective, your colostomy could be permanent.

Whether you’re a candidate for a laparoscopic surgery will often depend on why you’re having the surgery done and the state of your overall health.

Laparoscopic procedures are being used more often for a variety of surgeries. The best candidates are people undergoing uncomplicated surgeries. This means your blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs are stable, you aren’t bleeding heavily, and you don’t have widespread or extensive damage that must be repaired.

In cases where injury is widespread or there is extensive damage from diseases like cancer, your surgeon may have to stop a laparoscopic procedure and convert your surgery to an open procedure. This is usually done when the surgery needs to be completed quickly or more access is required to make the surgical repair.

If you’re not having your laparoscopic colostomy done as an emergency procedure, the process will begin with bowel prep. This involves drinking different solutions to clear your bowel of fecal matter and create the cleanest possible environment for surgery.

Surgeons typically use general anesthesia for this procedure. An intravenous (IV) catheter will deliver medications to you during the procedure. You may also have support for breathing in the from of mechanical ventilation and a urinary catheter to minimize contamination from bodily fluids during your surgery.

Once the preparation for your colostomy is complete, you’ll be positioned on the surgical table on your back with your legs bent. Your surgeon will mark your stoma site and make three incisions in your abdominal wall. One of the incisions is the location of the stoma, and the other two are used as tools to help access and move different parts of the intestine.

Your surgeon will pull a loop of intestine through the stoma site and secure it to the abdominal wall, sometimes over a small rubber catheter that helps to form the stoma.

When the procedure is complete and all your incisions are closed, you will be moved to a recovery area while you wake up from general anesthesia. You may need to stay n the hospital to recover for a few days after the surgery depending on the condition or injury that led to your colostomy.

Recovery from a laparoscopic colostomy is generally faster and less complicated in comparison to traditional, open surgeries. One study found that people who had laparoscopic procedures:

  • lost less blood during surgery
  • were able to start a liquid diet sooner
  • had ostomy output sooner
  • experienced less pain
  • had fewer complications
  • were able to leave the hospital sooner

There are several possible complications when you have a colostomy, even when it’s done laparoscopically. The most common complications after colostomy surgery include:

Although these complications are possible in both open and laparoscopic colostomies, rates were lower with the less invasive method, according to one 2019 report.

Most people who undergo colostomy surgery will stay in the hospital for roughly a week. The main goal of the hospital stay is to make sure that your ostomy is working and that you’re able to pass waste through the opening.

If you had a colostomy to help treat chronic or progressive conditions like colorectal cancers or irritable bowel diseases, your ostomy could be permanent. However, ostomies placed to treat traumatic injuries or mild disease may be able to be reversed in time.

The length of time for a colostomy reversal will be up to your surgeon, but typically, it can happen about 3 to 6 months after placing your initial ostomy. The surgery to reverse an ostomy is often less complicated, requiring a hospital stay of only 2 to 4 days in most cases.

There is a chance that you could have lasting changes to your bowel habits even after the reversal of a colostomy. This could include things like:

  • increased urgency or frequency of your bowel movements
  • changes in the texture of your stool
  • fecal incontinence or leaking

Talk with you doctor if you experience any of these symptoms after an ostomy reversal. There are physical therapy techniques like pelvic floor muscle retraining that can help you regain sensation and control after an ostomy reversal.

A laparoscopic colostomy is a less invasive way than an open surgery to divert your bowel movements if you have injuries or diseases that impair your ability to move your bowels.

A less invasive surgery usually leads to fewer complications, faster recovery, and a shorter hospital stay.