Stoma retraction or prolapse

When your stoma suddenly doesn’t stick out anymore but lays flat on the skin or has even sunken below skin level, it is called a stoma retraction. When it’s suddenly coming out too far above the level of your skin, you might be dealing with a prolapsed stoma.

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Retracted Stoma

Usually, your stoma will protrude slightly above skin level. How long this protrusion is, largely depends on the type of ostomy you have had, and the size of the bowel used to create the stoma. So if your stoma retracts, this means that it lays flat on the skin or has sunken below the surface of your skin. Although not dangerous, it can become problematic as the stoma bag might not fit neatly against it anymore, causing leaks and skin problems.

You can rectify a retracted stoma by using a stoma bag with a convex wafer to push the stoma forward, an ostomy belt to help and support the stoma or a barrier ring or paste to help keep the output of the stoma off the skin. In severe cases, your doctor might suggest to re-site the stoma for your own comfort.


Prolapsed Stoma

This means that the stoma comes out too far above the level of the skin and can extend to an, almost, abnormal length. If left untreated, your stoma can become more susceptible to abrasion and infections. There are various reasons why a stoma prolapse might occur:

  • Surgical technique (large incision in abdominal wall where bowel was brought out)
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Weak abdominal wall
  • Pregnancy
  • Sudden pressure in the abdomen (e.g. due to a coughing fit)

However severe the case, a prolapsed stoma always requires medical attention. With a small prolapse, using a different type of bag might be enough. In other cases, further surgery might be required. It is important that you keep an eye out for changes in size and colour as, due to the prolapse, the blood supply to your stoma might become disturbed, making it impossible for output to pass through. So if your stoma looks paler than usual or no output is passing through, it is important that you speak to a doctor as soon as possible.