Question: Contemplating Ostomy Reversal Surgery at 70

I’m a 70-year-old individual with a temporary ileostomy, facing the decision of undergoing reversal surgery. My surgeon is willing to perform the takedown, but I’m apprehensive due to horror stories about the lengthy recovery process. At my age, a year of recovery seems daunting. I had initially hoped to be rid of the ostomy bag, but now I’m uncertain. I would appreciate any insights or experiences that could guide me in this difficult decision.

Response: Evaluating the Pros and Cons of Ostomy Reversal at 70

The decision to proceed with ostomy reversal surgery, especially at the age of 70, is indeed a significant one. Here are some key considerations to help guide your decision-making process:

Understanding Stoma Reversal Surgery: A stoma reversal involves re-joining the previously separated ends of your bowel. The timing for such a procedure usually ranges from 3 to 12 months post-initial surgery, allowing the bowel to heal adequately. However, remember that your pelvic floor muscles may have weakened during this time, affecting post-surgery bowel control.

Factors to Consider:

  • Your current health status, especially if you’ve undergone treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.
  • The extent and location of your initial surgery, particularly how much bowel remains and its proximity to the anus. This can impact the feasibility of a successful re-joining and potential risk of incontinence.

Key Questions for Your Physician:

  • Discuss how the surgery might alter your bowel habits. Changes in the bowel’s structure can lead to variations in stool consistency and urgency.
  • Understand the surgical approach (laparoscopic vs. open surgery) and the associated risks.

Post-Operation Considerations:

  • Hospital stay duration can vary based on the surgery type and your recovery progress.
  • Post-surgery, you may need assistance from a multidisciplinary team, including dieticians and continence advisors.
  • Consider the impact on your daily life, including work and social activities. Post-surgery guidelines typically restrict driving and physical exertion for several weeks.

Making Your Decision:

  • Reflect on your current quality of life with the ileostomy and weigh it against the potential benefits and challenges of reversal surgery.
  • Consider seeking a second opinion or consulting with an ostomy support group to gain diverse perspectives.
  • Ultimately, the decision should align with your personal health goals and lifestyle preferences.

It’s important to approach this decision with careful consideration and open discussions with your healthcare providers. Each individual’s situation is unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay
FACEBOOK – Author Jo-Ann L. Tremblay
TWITTER @joanntremblay Author of “The Self-Coaching Toolbox” , “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag” , “Another BAG Another DAY”, “BAGs Around the World”, “Why Buttercup Wears a BAG!”, “The Sibs Gang Cave of the Golden Heart”,,
Member Ostomy Canada/Medical Lifestyle Advisory Committee Member – Ostomy Lifestyle Expert
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