Managing Ileostomy Blockages

While having ostomy surgery is lifesaving, there is so much to learn after having ostomy surgery, from choosing an ostomy pouch system to bag changes, learning about different ostomy products, and managing leaks and blockages.

Ostomy blockages can occur because of scar tissue in the bowel or a bowel obstruction from food. Most food blockages tend to clear up on their own with time, but sometimes, medical intervention is necessary. Since having my ostomy surgery, I have experienced two blockages. Managing blockages can be scary, especially when it is your first time. The first time I had a blockage was six weeks after my ostomy surgery, and it was due to food that was unable to pass through my stoma. Some symptoms I experienced with my blockage were abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, no output from my stoma, and swelling of my stoma. After a few hours, the blockage passed, and I felt much better, but it was a scary experience.

After my first blockage, I had an appointment with my colorectal surgeon to discuss my concerns, as I wanted to be prepared if another blockage were to happen. My medical team provided some tips and tricks on managing ileostomy blockages, and I have found them very helpful. My colorectal surgeon advised that when a food blockage occurs, I can stop having solid foods and focus on warm fluids like peppermint tea to help the blockage pass. Other helpful things are relaxing the abdominal muscles with abdominal massage, taking a warm shower, and using a heating pad on the abdomen. Taking short walks around the house and taking an anti-nausea medication to help with nausea is also encouraged. If there is swelling of the stoma, output could have trouble passing through because the flange is too snug around the stoma. Changing your appliance and cutting a larger opening on the flange based on the size of the stoma due to the swelling may help the output pass through.

Sometimes, a stoma blockage needs medical attention. I was advised that if there is no output at all for several hours, accompanied by severe abdominal pain, swelling, and vomiting, one should go to the nearest emergency department. At the emergency department, they will be able to identify the type of blockage and how to clear that blockage.

Recovering from a blockage is a lot like post-surgery practices with respect to food. I was encouraged to eat a low residue diet with foods that are easily passed to allow the bowels to rest and for the body to get back to normal.

An ileostomy blockage can be a difficult challenge, but many good resources are available for managing ileostomy blockages online.

Ostomy Blockage Resources

The following websites have some valuable information available for managing ileostomy blockages:

Webinar: Gas, Odour, Bloating & How To Keep Your Ostomy Flowing

Ostomy Canada Webinar: Gas, Odour, Bloating & How to Keep Your Ostomy Flowing. January 2022. Featuring guest speaker Kaylem Boileau, RD MHSc IIWCC-CAN.

Disclaimer: The information contained within these web pages are presented expressly for informational purposes only. In no way are any of the materials presented here meant to be a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified medical practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. ALWAYS check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your condition, or before starting a new program of treatment.

Nadia Maffucci Di Rienzo is a source of inspiration, advocating for those with invisible illnesses and bringing hope to many. Despite battling Ulcerative Colitis since 1997 and, more recently, colorectal cancer, Nadia’s resilience shines. After her total proctocolectomy in January 2023, she has bravely embraced life with a permanent ileostomy. Nadia shares her journey on her blog, Gutsy Girl Diaries, and Instagram, chronicling her experiences with IBD and cancer and her new life with an ostomy. As the inaugural Ostomy Canada Ambassador, Nadia aims to destigmatize invisible illnesses and disabilities. Her story is not just about survival but thriving, proving life with chronic conditions can be purposeful and positive. Through her empowering spirit and uplifting message, Nadia inspires others to embrace life fully, despite challenges.

Visit Nadia’s website Gutsy Girl Diaries, or follow her on social media!

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