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Why are some stomas permanent and others temporary?

Most permanent stomas are created when it is not possible to restore normal function to either the bowel or the bladder after surgery. There may be a number of reasons why this might happen, and they may be different for individuals. In the case of a urostomy, if an entire organ is removed, such as the bladder, then the stoma will be permanent.

Temporary stomas can be created for lots of different reasons:

  • to divert the bowel contents away from a section that is blocked.
  • to manage cancer of the bowel.
  • to help treat areas that need radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
  • to allow the bowel to heal where major surgery has been needed.
  • to manage an underlying medical condition where the bowel needs rest.
  • to help heal large wounds around the anal area.

How long someone needs a temporary stoma for will be different for each individual, depending on the reasons for the stoma in the first place. Some people may have a temporary stoma for weeks, months or even years in some cases. Some stomas may be temporary in theory, but an individual, in discussion with their doctor, may decide for lots of reasons to keep it permanently.