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How Long Can You Live with a Colostomy Bag?

A colostomy bag is a special pouch attached to a stoma created in the abdomen of ostomates. People use colostomy bags to hold waste that would normally be passed through the rectum, but due to colostomy surgery, the path of the stool has been redirected from the anus to the stoma. Colostomy bags are a significant advancement in the world of ostomy care. In fact, they have empowered ostomates to fully embrace colostomy and ileostomy with confidence.

A colostomy bag is often required by individuals who have undergone surgery such as colostomy for the treatment of diseases like diverticulitis, colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or Crohn’s disease. There is a common misconception among people that having a colostomy bag will decrease their life expectancy. Well, to be honest, a colostomy bag has nothing to do with life expectancy.

In this article, we will debunk the myths and misconceptions about life expectancy after colostomy and colostomy reversal surgery. We will also discuss the quality of life for individuals living with a colostomy bag.

Colostomy and Ileostomy – What are they?


A colostomy is a medical intervention involving the surgical placement of a segment of the large intestine, known as the colon, through the abdominal wall to form a stoma. This procedure is typically performed in cases where an individual experiences a health condition, injury, or disease that obstructs the regular flow of stool through the rectum. By creating the stoma, waste material can bypass the affected portion of the colon, exiting the body through the abdominal wall into a detachable bag or pouch.

Reasons for Colostomy:

Several disease conditions of the gastrointestinal tract can be managed and treated by colostomy surgery. Some of them include:

  • Bowel obstruction, typically obstruction in the colon which cannot be cleared
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • -Diverticulitis, which is the inflammation or infection of small pouches that can form in the walls of the colon
  • Colorectal cancer

Depending on the underlying disease condition, a colostomy can be temporary or permanent. For instance, in the case of bowel obstruction, a temporary colostomy is performed, whereas in colorectal cancer when a large part of the colon is removed, a permanent colostomy is performed.


An ileostomy is a surgical process where a section of the ileum, which is the lowest part of the small intestine, is redirected through the abdominal wall to form a stoma. This medical procedure is usually conducted to reroute the passage of stool away from the colon and rectum. Through the stoma, waste material exits the body and is collected in an external pouch or bag called a colostomy bag.

Reasons for Ileostomy:

Just like a colostomy, an ileostomy is also used to manage certain disease conditions related to the gastrointestinal tract, especially the small intestine. Some of them are:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
  • Any surgery to the digestive tract that requires rest
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Any injury or trauma to the bowel
  • or any obstruction in the small intestine that cannot be treated.

The main difference between ileostomy and colostomy is the location. A colostomy is carried out in the large intestine, whereas an ileostomy can be performed on any part of the small intestine. Like a colostomy, an ileostomy can be temporary or permanent.

Impact of Colostomy and Ileostomy on the Digestive System:

A colostomy does not produce a significant impact on the digestive system. The stool consistency remains as it was before the surgery, and patients do not face any issues related to digestion or report any nutritional deficiencies as most nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine.

On the other hand, in the case of an ileostomy, nutritional deficiency is the biggest risk associated with the surgery. Patients become deficient in Vitamin B12, calcium, and magnesium, as most absorption takes place in the small intestine. Also, the stool consistency is quite liquid, and the frequency will be higher than normal, leading to fluid and nutrient loss in an ileostomy.

Life Expectancy After Colostomy

A colostomy is not a life-threatening surgical procedure. It’s a simple procedure that helps you heal from certain medical conditions. In the case of temporary colostomy, once your underlying medical condition is treated, you can easily opt for colostomy reversal surgery and free yourself from the colostomy bag. This procedure will not affect your life significantly. The reason is that only a small portion of your intestine was affected, which has now healed.

However, in the case of permanent colostomy, such as colon cancer or colorectal cancer, when parts of your colon are permanently removed, your life expectancy can be decreased due to various risks associated with permanent colostomy.

Factors That Can Influence Life Expectancy After Colostomy:

While there are many other factors, some of the most prominent factors that affect your quality of life after colostomy surgery are age and health.


It is a factor that matters greatly in every kind of surgery. In colostomy, if the patient is young and energetic, their quality of life would not be significantly affected. Also, their life expectancy will remain intact. They can easily tolerate all the outcomes of the surgical procedure. Moreover, a young person can easily manage themselves with the colostomy bag.

On the other hand, the quality of life for older individuals becomes affected due to colostomy surgery as they may have a weaker immune system, leading to a higher risk of acquiring postoperative infections. They are also more susceptible to certain long-term complications associated with colostomy, such as skin issues around the stoma, hernias, or electrolyte imbalances. These complications, if not managed effectively, can impact overall health and longevity.


Individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or compromised immune systems may experience a slightly lower life expectancy after a colostomy due to several interconnected factors. Chronic conditions often come with their own set of complications and comorbidities. For example, diabetes can lead to issues such as poor wound healing, increased risk of infections, and nerve damage, all of which can complicate the recovery process after colostomy surgery.

While individuals with chronic conditions may have a slightly lower life expectancy after a colostomy compared to those without these conditions, it’s important to note that proper management, close medical supervision, lifestyle modifications, and adherence to treatment plans can significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for these individuals.

Life Expectancy of Individuals with an Ileostomy:

An ileostomy is a life-saving surgical procedure that can save your life from lethal diseases such as bowel cancer, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Your quality of life improves with the help of an ileostomy. Since one of the major risks associated with an ileostomy is nutritional deficiency, many people believe that they can’t live a long life with an ileostomy. However, the reality is quite different; many people with an ileostomy can live long, healthy, and active lives. The key is to show willingness to adapt to a new lifestyle and diet with an ileostomy. Moreover, age and the health of the individual play a crucial role in determining the life expectancy after an ileostomy.

Life expectancy after colostomy reversal:

Colostomy reversal, also known as colostomy takedown or closure, is a surgery to undo a temporary colostomy. In this procedure, the part of the intestine that was brought outside the abdomen is put back inside and connected to the rest of the intestine. However, your surgeon will first check what caused the colostomy in the first place. If those issues are fixed and the intestine has healed, then the surgeon will consider doing the colostomy closure surgery. Life expectancy after the colostomy closure procedure greatly relies on the underlying disease condition that led to the initial stoma formation. If the disease has been completely cured with successful colostomy reversal, then you will live a long, happy, and active life.

Reason For Colostomy Reversal:

Individuals who have gone through a temporary colostomy opt for colostomy takedown surgery. This amazing surgery is performed 3 to 4 months after the temporary colostomy when the affected part of the colon heals completely. Colostomy reversal is not a complicated procedure; rather, it’s a simple process that can be done with a laparoscope. However, there are a few considerations for the person going for a colostomy reversal. The person should be healthy, disease-free, with functional anal nerves and muscles.

Can You Live A Long Life With A Colostomy Bag?

Yes, of course, why not? A colostomy bag has nothing to do with your life expectancy. It’s simply a pouch that holds waste. You can live a healthy, active, and fun-filled life even with a colostomy bag. You can enjoy every bit of your life.

Remember, a colostomy bag is not a hurdle to your dreams. You are free to fly high and breathe in fresh air even with a colostomy bag on your waist.

Famous Ostomates:

Babe Zaharias: An extremely athletic woman, she won two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal for Track and Field, and the best part is, she did it all with a colostomy bag on her waist.

Jerry Kramer: An American Football player who served on the American Football team for 11 years as an offensive lineman. He underwent nine different intestinal surgeries, including a colostomy, and played several football matches with a colostomy bag on his side.

Al Geiberger: A professional golfer who has won several tournaments. His colon was removed due to inflammatory bowel disease, and with a permanent colostomy, he has played many golf matches.

And the list goes on.

How Can You Live A Long Life With A Colostomy Bag?

Living a long and fulfilling life with a colostomy bag involves several key strategies. Some of them are:

  1. Proper Stoma Care: Regularly clean and care for your stoma and the skin around it to prevent infections, irritation, and other complications. Use appropriate supplies recommended by healthcare professionals.
  2. Healthy Diet: Maintain a well-balanced diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and plenty of fluids to promote regular bowel movements and overall digestive health. Avoid foods that may cause blockages such as nuts, dried fruits, and sweet corn.
  3. Regular Exercise: Stay physically active with exercises suitable for your condition and fitness level. Physical activity can improve circulation, strengthen muscles, and boost overall well-being
  4. Medication Management: Take prescribed medications as directed by your healthcare provider and inform them about any changes in your health or medications.
  5. Regular Medical Check-ups: Attend regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare team to monitor stoma health, and overall health, and address any concerns or complications promptly.
  6. Avoid Smoking and Excessive Alcohol: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can have adverse effects on digestive health and overall well-being. Therefore, avoid them to improve your quality of life with a colostomy.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily life and maintaining open communication with your healthcare team, you can live a long, healthy, and fulfilling life with a colostomy bag.


Living a long life with a colostomy bag is entirely possible with proper care, lifestyle adjustments, and regular medical monitoring. The key factors influencing life expectancy after colostomy include underlying health conditions, age, and adherence to medical advice. A colostomy bag should not limit your ability to lead a fulfilling and active life. Just like the famous personalities with ostomates, you can also be a success story. With the right mindset, support, and self-care practices, individuals with a colostomy bag can enjoy a high quality of life and pursue their dreams and passions without limitations.

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