Colostomy Surgery Recovery

As with any major medical procedure, colostomy surgery recovery takes both time and patience to accomplish. In addition, there are some guidelines to follow both in the hospital and at home, which will help ensure a healthy outcome. Below are some general standards of what you might expect to experience during recovery, but everyone is different. It is imperative to follow your doctor’s or nurse’s instructions and advice above all else and report to them any problems or concerns you may have as soon as they arise. The recovery period is also when you will learn and implement colostomy care basics and start to develop your routine of caring for your stoma and learning how to handle colostomy bags, pouches and other supplies. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your ostomy nurse or doctor, nothing is too small or insignificant.

Colostomy Surgery Recovery at the Hospital

While every patient is unique, and how quickly you are able to resume normal tasks will vary, there is a general pattern following colostomy surgery. Knowing your limits is important, and this overview will give you a better idea of what to expect. During this time, a clear colostomy pouch will be used so that the medical staff can easily check the condition of the stoma. Before being discharged a nurse should offer instruction on how to choose, use and clean your colostomy appliances and supplies. To optimize your time in the hospital try and ask as many questions as possible to better prepare yourself for when you get home.


It is actually beneficial to move around (with assistance) soon after your procedure is complete. Your nurse will likely ask you to walk a short distance with their help, either on the day of your surgery or within 24 hours. Why is this? It can help stave off a variety of unwanted complications, such as upper respiratory infections or the formation of blood clots. Further, it can stimulate peristalsis, and getting your bowels moving again is important. You can also move when resting in bed, by slowly bending your arms and legs repeatedly. Just be sure to take it easy, and avoid over-exertion.


As colostomy surgery is performed on your digestive system, you won’t be given solid foods following the operation. In addition, you’ll be restricted from consuming anything orally, even liquids. Instead, you will be nourished through your IV, which will also include any necessary medications.

How soon until you can resume normal eating? This is up to your doctor’s discretion, and they will typically wait until you begin passing gas into your colostomy bag. This is a signal that your digestion is beginning to function again, and that you can handle drinking clear fluids. If these give you no trouble, you’ll then be allowed more substantial liquids, such as soups or even oatmeal. Finally, if no adverse reactions or complications arise, you’ll be advanced to soft, solid foods. Expect the entire process to take several days – more if your doctor has reason to be concerned.

Pain and Discomfort

Colostomy surgery is a major procedure, and as such, you should expect to have some level of pain. Fortunately, this can be well-controlled with a variety of medications, which you may be allowed to self-administer. If you’re given this option, you’ll use a button next to your bed, which will add more pain medication to your IV drip. The system will automatically monitor your usage, to ensure that you don’t take too much at one time.

When it comes to pain, most doctors advise that you stay out ahead of it, by taking enough medication. Otherwise, it can be difficult to gain control of your pain once again, making your recovery more uncomfortable than necessary. Further, taking adequate doses will allow you to move more freely, which should reduce your recovery time.

Recovery At Home

Colostomy surgery recovery is always a process, and it is best not to become impatient and try to rush through it. Having the right expectations will go a long way towards alleviating your frustration, and allow you to take small steps towards healing each day. Keep in mind that a variety of factors will influence your progress, such as your baseline level of health and fitness, how well the procedure went and even your age.


Staying active is an important part of healing, and your doctor will likely encourage you to avoid resting too much. It is best to stay out of bed for as long as possible throughout the day, and try to do normal activities too. However, your body will be devoting much of its resources to healing, so you will tend to have less energy in general. This is to be expected, and you may need to take several naps every day in the beginning. Simply try to find a balance, where you devote enough time to resting and some to staying active as well.

What types of exercise are most beneficial? Walking is generally advised, as it is a gentle way to keep your body moving. Try to gradually increase your distance, without pushing yourself too much. The one type of exercise which is forbidden is any kind of heavy lifting. This can cause a variety of problems, such as a hernia or ripping out your stitches. You’re doctor will advise you how much weight you’re permitted to lift, but this is usually quite small – often only a few pounds. In addition, you may be restricted from strenuous exercise or lifting anything heavier than 25 pounds for six months following your recuperation.


As with any surgery involving the digestive system, you’ll want to slowly build up your eating. However, most of this process will be accomplished during your hospital stay, as your doctor will be reluctant to release you before you can nourish yourself. Once at home, you’ll have specific recommendations concerning your diet, and it is important to follow these closely. In general, it is best to hydrate yourself by drinking plenty of water, which will help the healing process.

Further, you may want to eat small meals on a more frequent basis, especially if your appetite has been reduced. This often happens after surgery, and it should return to normal within a few weeks. Finally, protein is vital for healing, as it gives your body the essentials for tissue repair and regeneration. Therefore, try to eat some protein at every meal, to give your body what it needs to recover.

Pain and Discomfort

You’ll be given pain medication to take home with you, along with dosage instructions. You can simply take these as needed, and they are especially useful for getting to sleep. Expect to taper off your dosage gradually on a progressive basis, as your pain levels begin to fall as you heal.

A lot of colostomy patients receive in home visits from a nurse in the days and weeks after their surgery to look after their newly formed stoma and to check up on the health and well being of the patient. Write down any questions you may come up with in between visits and make sure to ask them to the nurse while they are there.

Recovery typically takes several days in the hospital, followed by a period of a few weeks to a few months at home depending on the occurrence of any possible complications. Expect to slowly resume your normal activities, while being careful to avoid strenuous actions, such as heavy lifting. The course of your healing will be highly individual, as further complications may arise, but the above recommendations should help ensure that you have the best outcome possible.