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What are the Long Term Side Effects of a Colostomy Reversal?

Every year, 700,000 individuals undergo colostomy surgery, out of which two-thirds opt for colostomy reversal surgery, which is usually carried out after a temporary colostomy. In a temporary colostomy, the main goal is to allow healing time for the colon. Once it has completely healed, then colostomy reversal is carried out.

It has been observed that ostomates are afraid of going for colostomy reversal surgery due to long-term side effects and complications associated with the process. That is why they prefer living with a colostomy bag for their entire life.

To be honest, this is not the right approach. Every surgical procedure has benefits and risks too. But with proper care and precaution, one can easily overcome all the complications and side effects associated with the process.

In this article, we will discuss colostomy reversal and its long-term side effects that one has to face so that you can make up your mind accordingly.


A colostomy is a surgical procedure that involves creating an opening in the abdominal wall through which a portion of the colon (large intestine) is brought to the surface of the skin. This opening is called a stoma. The end of the colon is then attached to the stoma, allowing waste (feces) to leave the body through this new opening rather than through the rectum and anus. The main purpose of this surgery is to give healing time to the affected part of the colon.

Colostomy Reversal Surgery:

Colostomy reversal, also known as colostomy takedown or colostomy closure, is a surgery aimed at reversing 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.

Before proceeding with this surgery, your surgeon will carefully examine your health and underlying conditions that made it necessary to opt for colostomy. If the underlying reason for colostomy has resolved completely and the patient has healed properly (which might take 6 months), then your surgeon will recommend the colostomy closure procedure.

Conditions like diverticulitis, early-stage colorectal cancer, or Crohn’s disease may lead to a temporary colostomy. This means that after at least 6 months of temporary colostomy, you can undergo colostomy reversal surgery after complete examinations.

Benefits of colostomy reversal surgery:

The benefits of colostomy reversal surgery include:

  1. Restoration of Normal Bowel Function: One of the primary benefits is the restoration of normal bowel function. After the reversal surgery, waste can once again pass through the rectum and anus, eliminating the need for a colostomy bag.
  2. Improved Quality of Life: Many people find that living without a colostomy bag improves their overall quality of life. They may feel more comfortable, confident, and socially active without having to manage the bag.
  3. 3. Better Body Image: Reversing a colostomy can lead to a better body image for some individuals. They may feel more at ease with their appearance and may not have to deal with the physical and emotional challenges associated with wearing a colostomy bag.
  4. Reduced Risk of Complications: While colostomies can be lifesaving, they can also come with risks such as infections, skin irritation, and hernias around the stoma. Reversing the colostomy can reduce the risk of these complications in the long term.
  5. Simpler Daily Routine: Without the need to manage a colostomy bag, daily routines can become simpler and more straightforward for individuals who undergo colostomy reversal surgery.
  6. 6. Potential Cost Savings: Choosing colostomy reversal will help you get rid of all unnecessary expenses like colostomy pouches and other appliances.

Side effects of colostomy reversal surgery:

Like every other surgical procedure, colostomy reversal has some short-lasting side effects too that will subside in a week. Some of them are:

  • Alteration in Bowel Function: Some individuals may experience changes in their bowel habits, including increased visits to the toilet, diarrhea, or constipation. Well, it may take some time for your bowel to return back to its normal function. With proper care and dietary adjustment, you can easily manage this short-term side effect.
  • Fecal Incontinence: Colostomy reversal can sometimes result in temporary or permanent issues with bowel control, leading to fecal incontinence. This can be a challenging side effect that may require lifestyle modifications, pelvic floor exercises, or medical interventions to manage.
  • Loss of Tonicity: Since the muscles of the large intestine were not in working condition for 6 months, they experience loss of tonicity due to which patients may complain of diarrhea or constipation. This will require some time for the muscles to bring back their normal tone.

Long-term side effects of colostomy reversal surgery:

Unlike the short-lasting side effects of colostomy reversal procedures, the long-lasting side effects take time to heal and often require medical intervention. Some of them are:

  • Bowel Obstruction: In some cases, scar tissue or adhesions from previous surgeries can lead to bowel obstruction after colostomy reversal. Bowel obstruction is a condition where there is a partial or complete blockage in the normal flow of digestive contents through the intestines. Symptoms of bowel obstruction may include abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, and constipation. Surgery may be required to address severe cases of bowel obstruction.
  • Anastomotic Leak: Anastomotic leakage is a dangerous complication associated with it. Anastomotic leakages are the improper joining of the two ends of the intestine. This small negligence can lead to severe serious consequences which include blood infection. Due to improper joining, the fecal material starts leaking, and patients complain of fever and severe abdominal pain. To overcome this situation, you will be prescribed antibiotics along with reoperation to reseal the two ends of the intestine.

Ideal candidate for colostomy reversal surgery:

For colostomy reversal surgery, the candidate should:

  • Be a healthy and young adult
  • Have a properly healed colon
  • Do not have any sign of inflammation or infection
  • Have functional anal nerves and muscles


In conclusion, while colostomy reversal surgery presents various benefits such as restored bowel function, improved quality of life, and reduced risks of complications, it’s crucial to acknowledge and understand the potential long-term side effects associated with the procedure. By being informed and discussing these aspects thoroughly with healthcare professionals, one can make well-informed decisions regarding colostomy reversal, ensuring optimal post-operative care and management of any potential challenges that may arise.

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