Question: Managing Mucus Discharge after Ileostomy Surgery

I underwent surgery for rectal cancer on April 24, 2018, resulting in an ileostomy. While the surgery to reconnect has been delayed, I’ve experienced fluctuating mucous discharge from the rectum. Initially frequent, it decreased and then recently intensified, severely limiting my activities due to unpredictability. The discharge occurs mostly upon changing positions. My specialist is unsure of the cause, speculating it might be related to incomplete healing. There seems to be no link to diet or medications, though the increase coincided with starting a new antibiotic. Is this fluctuation common, and do you have any insights or advice?

Response: Navigating Fluctuating Mucus Discharge Post-Ileostomy

It’s not uncommon for patients with a stoma to experience mucus discharge from the rectum, even when the intestine is not directly connected. The rectal stump, a living tissue, continues to produce mucus, a normal bodily function for lubricating stool passage. This discharge varies in consistency and frequency among individuals and can fluctuate over time.

Key Points to Consider:

  1. Normalcy of Mucus Production: The production of mucus by the rectum is a normal occurrence. The consistency can range from clear to sticky. Its frequency and amount are individual-specific.
  2. Managing Discharge: Many individuals find relief by periodically sitting on the toilet to expel the mucus, preemptively managing potential leaks. Using gauze or sanitary napkins can also help in catching unexpected leaks.
  3. When to Seek Medical Advice: If the mucus has a foul odor or exhibits green or yellow coloration, it’s crucial to consult a physician. Additionally, any associated pain or discomfort should prompt a medical evaluation.
  4. Understanding Fluctuations: While it can be concerning, the fluctuation in mucus discharge is not unusual and can vary over time, influenced by various factors including healing processes and medication.
  5. Monitoring and Reporting: Continuously monitor the discharge and report any significant changes or concerns to your healthcare provider for further assessment.

In your situation, the recent changes you’ve experienced could be part of the natural variability associated with mucus discharge post-ileostomy. However, maintaining open communication with your healthcare team is essential for managing this aspect of your post-surgical care effectively.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay
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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”,,
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