Ileostomy vs Colostomy: Understanding the Differences

Ileostomy vs Colostomy: Understanding the Differences

Living with an ostomy marks a significant change in one’s life. It comes with its set of challenges, adjustments, and learning curves. Whether you’re an ostomate yourself or caring for someone who is, understanding the differences between an ileostomy and a colostomy can help in managing the condition more effectively. Both procedures are life-saving surgical interventions that allow waste to exit the body when the colon or rectum is not functioning correctly. Despite their similarities, they have distinct differences worth noting.

What is an Ileostomy?

An ileostomy is a surgical procedure that creates an opening in the abdomen to divert waste away from the ileum, the last part of the small intestine. This is usually done when the colon or rectum is not working properly due to conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or cancer. The waste is collected in a pouch outside the body. Ileostomies can be temporary or permanent, depending on the underlying health condition.

What is a Colostomy?

A colostomy is another form of ostomy where the surgeon creates an opening from the colon (or large intestine) to the surface of the abdomen. This allows waste to bypass the damaged or diseased part of the colon. Like ileostomies, colostomies can be either temporary or permanent and are performed for reasons including colon cancer, diverticulitis, or traumatic injury.

Key Differences Between Ileostomy and Colostomy


The primary difference between an ileostomy and a colostomy is their location on the body. An ileostomy is made in the small intestine, while a colostomy is made in the large intestine.

Type of Waste

Due to their locations, the type of waste expelled differs. Ileostomy output is generally more liquid because it exits the body before reaching the large intestine, where water is absorbed. Colostomy waste, on the other hand, can range from liquid to solid, as it comes from the large intestine.


Managing an ileostomy often requires more frequent emptying of the pouch because of the liquid consistency of the waste. Additionally, ileostomates might need to pay closer attention to fluid and electrolyte balance. Colostomy management might involve learning to irrigate the colon, a process that can regulate waste elimination.

Living with an Ostomy

Living with either an ileostomy or colostomy requires adaptation and learning. It’s crucial to understand how to care for your stoma, manage your diet, and choose the right ostomy supplies. While it may seem daunting at first, many resources and support groups are available to help ostomates lead full, active lives.


Both ileostomy and colostomy surgeries are vital for individuals with certain medical conditions, providing them with a new way to eliminate waste from the body. Understanding the differences between these two types of ostomies is essential for proper care and management. Whether you have an ileostomy or colostomy, remember that with the right information and support, you can continue to enjoy a quality life.

Living with an ostomy may seem like a daunting journey, but it's also one of resilience and adaptation. The ostomy community is vibrant and supportive, with individuals sharing their experiences and tips for managing life post-surgery. Remember, you're not alone on this journey.