Facts About Ostomy Reversals

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Colorectal Cancer: Be informed if you are a candidate for an ostomy reversal 


By Joanna Burgess-Stocks, BSN, RN, CWOCN


  • Not everyone who has an ostomy as a result of colorectal cancer and other diseases will have the option of having their ostomy reversed.  Some people will need to keep their ostomy for life.


  • Your surgeon will determine when an ostomy will be reversed. There are many factors that determine a reversal such as the extent of the disease, a patient’s overall health and treatment process (radiation and chemotherapy).  Most patients with temporary ostomies will have the ostomy for about 3-6 months.


  • Surgery for reversal of an ostomy is usually much less involved than the surgery that you had to create the ostomy. So if you are feeling nervous, keep that in mind. A typical hospital course is 3-4 days on average.


  • For some patients, interrupting bowel function with a temporary ileostomy increases the chances that you will experience alterations in bowel function after reversal of your stoma. These symptoms can include rectal urgency, frequency, fragmentation of stool and incontinence. It is important that you notify your surgeon as soon as possible with these symptoms. Treatment includes behavioral strategies based on the symptoms and includes dietary modifications, incontinence products, skin care (use of barrier creams such as zinc oxide) and medications such as loperamide. More involved but helpful recommendations are pelvic muscle retraining (PMR) to regain sphincter strength and biofeedback. This therapy is done by a highly trained physical therapist.


  • Some physical therapists recommend PMR prior to surgery or radiation to assess muscles and teach strategies for ongoing muscle strengthening that can be carried over after surgery. This helps to address any coordination or existing weakness prior to radiation due to chemo or post-operative recovery. If PMR is recommended after surgery, it is best to wait at least 6 weeks and with the surgeon’s approval.

51 replies
  1. Sonia
    Sonia says:

    I have had a reversal done I. July and I am not having good results. Sometimes in the night I have to get up 8 times to go.sometimes whenever and wherever it happens. Very embarrassing. Thinking on getting back back. Just seem to be tied to home and can’t really plan outings

    • Jan
      Jan says:

      I had my reversal done in July also. I find my diet, total food consumption and time last eaten directly affects how many times I am up at night. I stick with trying to eat no later than 7 pm. Much better if I eat around 5:30. I keep my diet on the low residue type meals when bowels movements are too much or rectal burning/soreness from wiping is just too much. I also take Loperamide at dinner when needed. You might want to try some of these. My nightly post normal dinner evacuations are down to 3 times. Oh. I try to eat a smaller meals at dinner and try to remember to consume food slowly.

      • jsjkubota
        jsjkubota says:

        Jan how are you doing now ? I’am 59 year old male that had my reversal in nov 2019. Its been rough . I have good days and bad I had a lot of complications. While I had my ostomy the doctor only had a 1/4 in to work with after he removed my rectum so that’s part of the problem. I sit in the bath room a lot. Sometimes I wish I still had the ostomy! I take Imodium multiple time a day so I can go outside are go off for a little while to the store. All the doctor says is it takes time I know that is true. For someone who likes to outside all the time its hard to deal with it.Until i found this website there is not much information out there my surgeon didn’t tell me about the recovery time all he said was it take time. Well I’am going to quit now I could go on for ever. Hope you are doing well !!!

        • Jan
          Jan says:

          I think our recovery period is very similar. There seems to be very little info about life after the reversal. We are blessed to have the reversal but life is different. I too take Imodium daily and sometimes it works well and other times – not so much. It does get old to have to prepare for an outing or a shower. I have experienced weight gain from the low residue diet but transitioning intake of foods that I used to eat is sort of slow. This one seems to be a take one day at a time.

      • Tina
        Tina says:

        It’s been over five years since I had my colorectal cancer and a temporary ostomy and let me tell you that it’s not easy. I have to watch what I eat. I’m lactose intolerant as far as drinking milk. I can’t drink milk anymore. I have to be very careful about what I eat. If I eat something doesn’t agree with me. I literally could be messed in my pants when I’m asleep and not even know it wake up in a bit of shit it’s terrible, but will I ever reverse it hell no I just get a bat and put underneath me and I watch what I eat Eat smaller portions stay away from dairy and spicy foods and just thank God that I’m alive but it’s not easy having the reversal I’m not gonna say it is after literally five years I’m still having problems

      • Mike
        Mike says:

        If paper irritates, using water to clean oneself takes care of that. It’s awkward at first – I use a plastic goblet of 12 ounces that I keep in washroom and it works great. I only use paper to pat dry.

        • Shawn
          Shawn says:

          Amazon has a peri ‘cleaner’ it’s essentially a water bottle with a long and curved spout on it just for that purpose. It’s a big help when things get raw down there.

    • Mimi
      Mimi says:

      Hi I had my ileostomy reversal about 10 days ago and my bowel issues seem to be so different than so many others I’ve read. Initially after coming home I too had frequent burning stools. Over the last 3 days only 1 bm. Is this normal for constipation post reversal? I was not prepared in any way for possible post op issues. So distressed.
      Thx for any support or suggestions.

      • Sandra
        Sandra says:

        I have had the same issues as you. My refersal was done almost 3 months ago and I have been on a dose each day which I take in half doses.

  2. Josh
    Josh says:

    Hello I too have had a reversal done just a little over a week ago. Here it is the 8th day and I think it’s going okay, however I have this awful bloating feeling all day long with episodes of continuous gas expelling. When I do expell the gas I feel better but how long could I honestly expect for this feeling to be present. As I move around the gas does expell. But I’m afraid to “fart”, not knowing if it’s air or poop. I’m thankful to have had the reversal done but it’s painful. Could I use a gas x type med ?

  3. Deborah Smith
    Deborah Smith says:

    Had ostomy take down in November 2018 now I have 2 large lumps on each side of my stomach of incision.. Little concerned.

    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      I had my ostomy reversal a month ago. I noticed a lump near the incision site a few days after the reversal. I had developed a hernia and had to have more surgery. This was a rare occurrence…1 in 25,000 cases per my surgeon. The hernia could have caused major complications if not corrected including another bowel blockage. I now feel better than I have felt in at least 2 years. A very very long hard road and I am so thankful it is behind me. I wish positive outcomes for all of you going through this.

  4. Sue
    Sue says:

    I had my large intestines removed because of Crohn’s disease. I’ve never had any sign of the disease any place other than my colin. It’s been about 4 years sine the surgery. In the past two tears I’ve had a terrible time with peristomal hernias and have multiple surgeries to try to fix them. It doesn’t last long. I’ve had 3 surgeries since October of last year so in 6 months. I wonder if it’s possible to have reversal surgery without a colin?

    • UOAA
      UOAA says:

      Hi Sue,
      The post you’ve replied to is mainly about ostomies which are intended specifically to be temporary. Yours clearly wasn’t intended to be temporary. Two kinds of “reversal” may be possible for people without a colon, although neither is generally considered appropriate for people who’ve had Crohn’s disease. One possibility, if you still have your anus and anal sphincters, would be J-pouch (ileoanal reservoir) surgery. The other possibility is continent ileostomy (Kock pouch) surgery, which may include the “BCIR” variant of the Kock pouch. Both of these would require you to undergo further major surgery, and most doctors are very reluctant to do either of them on patients with a history of Crohn’s disease. Another surgical option you might consider, given your history of peristomal hernias, is not to “reverse” your ostomy, but just see if it can be relocated to the other side of your abdomen (assuming this hasn’t been tried already).

      • jerry cohen
        jerry cohen says:

        i read sue’s post and wanted others to have another perspective. hopefully encouraging to those facing illeostomy. i had illeostomy 13 years ago as a result of very serious ulcerative colitis and four years ago liver transplant. what i would like to convey is 2 months after illeostomy my life had no resemblance to pre illeostomy. conditions. in my case removing colon even positively affected my psc but eventually that caused transplant which brings me to today where i am exercising again and lead normal life. i hope this helps

  5. Josh G
    Josh G says:

    Greetings all. I had my take down done last October 2018, it is now July of ‘19 and I must say things are good. It took several months to get back to a normal state of expelling waste. I must say that I do have to spend a lot of time in the bathroom from 530am to about 900am. Depending on my food intake I can go to the bathroom on an average of about 7 times a day. Yeah it seems like a lot but I also do not have a pancreas nor a spleen nor a gall bladder nor appendix. I had to have a total pancreatic auto islet cell transplantation with a pancreatectomy. So my digestive system is far different from many because I have to take an enzyme supplement called creon to help break down the foods. Depending on the amount of creon I take can adversely affect the outcome. Anyway I am more than pleased too be pain free and wel on my way to my next adventures. But not with out a five gallon bucket on a road trip just in case. Hang in there fellow ostomates it all comes around when your time is right.

    • Catrick Howell
      Catrick Howell says:

      I also do not have a spleen or gallbladder. I’ve also had one kidney removed, uterus, cervix and one of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. I recently just had peristomal hernia surgery when I had my colostomy reversed along with my appendix removed. I am searching for answers because my nausea, vomiting and hernia like pain are debilitating at times and ongoing constantly. I also have a sharp objects protruding through my skin and it was open surgery that was supposed to take 3 hours but lasted 6. I’m baffled with what is wrong with me and what is going on with my body. I schedule an appointment with the surgeon but it’s a week away.

  6. Sylvie
    Sylvie says:

    Hello, my reversal was done 4 months ago and since then I have been taking imodium almost everyday ( mostly when I need to go out of the house) and metamucil twice a day but I still manage to go 8-10 times a day. It has improved since the first months but I don’t see myself going back to work with this many times going to the bathroom especially when that takes up about 2 to 3 hours. I have also noticed that if I take imodium during the day well then I am up part of the night going to the bathroom so very tired the next day. Has anyone gone back to work with these conditions ?

    • Hasmik
      Hasmik says:

      Yes ,I went to work after one month. I had my reversal 6 months ago/ was living with nightmare pouch one year 6 months And couple of days. By my personal experience just cut your food . My doctor told me that I must lost same weight(10pounts). I ate2 times a day. First one is morning at 10 am and second one is 5pm. My restroom attendance is starting 5 :45 pm or 8 pm. It could take 2hours or if I’m lucky just half hour.Just imagine that you are ballerina and must sit on diet forever. About Imodium -was taking it almost 4 months with Metamucil. Now I am not using it. But each month it is getting better.I just accept for myself that I m learning my body’s new behavior- my surgeon told me before so I was kind of ready…

    • Regina
      Regina says:

      My son had a reverse osteomy in march I am extremely proud of him he is trying very hard he had rector cancer we went through a lot of pain depression I made he call nurse who told him he is doing very well he went back to work he is up all night going to bathroom and during work hours has to go is their foods to avoid so this doesn’t happen he is 56 yrs old

  7. Jim Cotter
    Jim Cotter says:

    I had my ileostomy reversal in mid July.Things are getting better but I make many trips to bathroom I have strained and whipped a lot so hoping the blood I see once in awhile is that and not my cancer returning. I am actually have my 6 month ct scan today from lar surgery fingers crossed.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Yer, I did. Ask your Dr if an anal entry to rectum was done. Think about that. I expelled blood for 3 days. All over now. All good.

  8. Mary Bryant
    Mary Bryant says:

    I had reveal surgery 3 months ago doing good by the grace of God. I have a good bit of burning and itching after going to the bathroom some times. Which I knew if this will stop. But other than that I am blessed.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Having reversal on 2/14/22. Got the courage to do it. Am in the best shape of my life. Trust surgeon as she saved my life 19 months ago. Have mastered the stoma. Not one leak in 19 months or any skin problems whatsoever. Prepared for possibility that when she gets in/ may decide she can’t do it.

        • Marie
          Marie says:

          Hi Goldie I hope your doing well after your surgery. My husband is due Mar 25 for his reversal surgery. I think I am more worried than him. My I ask you what to expect, for my piece of mind, or to be prepared incase it’s not good. Thankyou

          • Liz
            Liz says:

            Hi all,
            I am about 1 week post reversal. Doing ok so far. The surgery was done robotically so the recovery is shaping up to be much easier than the original. Starting to have more defined bowel movements, they started very soft. Doing the low fiber/low residue diet for another couple weeks. Having to go to the bathroom probably 5-7 times a day only occasionally has it been urgent. The feeling of “is this a fart or poop?” Is lessening. I hope it continues like this and my stoma heals up well. I can’t wait to be able to eat salads and fruits again!

          • Sum
            Sum says:

            is your husband okay? can I know how long did it take for your husband to recover? my dad has his surgery soon and I’m worried for him.

        • Mary
          Mary says:

          How was your surgery? Mine was moved to April 4th. It was done laparoscopically! Surgeon left stoma site open. I had to pack it for 7 weeks. Pretty easy. I am so happy I did the reversal. Now I did have a difficult few days last week. Stomach flu caused real diarrhea. Slowed me down. So I returned to soft foods and liquids.
          Feeling better. At 72, I have never felt better. I will remain cautious about what I eat and drink.

          • Terry
            Terry says:

            Hi, I had an iliostomy reversal April 28th, so it’s been about 6 weeks now, I had my ostomy for 4 1/2 years because my surgeon said it wasn’t reversable. I got very tired of the ostomy, it was accually the 2nd time I’ve had one, the first one for 6 months in 2004. Have had Crohn’s disease since a young teen. But after getting a 2nd opinion, I went back to my surgeon and told him that the other doctor said it could be reversed. His exact words were ” It’s not going to happen” I said that the gastrointestinal doctor said I was good to go, so he finally said he would take a look, so I went to the hospital for the test, and after that, he said he would do it. So I spent 6 hours in surgery and 10 days in the hospital. Had about a 10″ incesion in the middle of my belly. He said he had to clean it up in there as it was all sticky, and he said he cut away several adhesions. At first, I had very frequent bowel movements, with not much control, several night time accidents, but it slowly getting better. Not going as much anymore get through a few nights ok, a little discomfort. But really glad that it’s gone.. I feel like I got a second chance especially after the doctor told me it’s not going to happen, so it’s been a long journey, we’re getting better all the time. I’m just worried about adhesions again. Lower cross that bridge if and when it comes…

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Had to have more tests bf Hartmann’s reversal. April 4, 2022. So far so good. I have never been happier.My surgeon wants the old stoma site to heal from inside out. I have to pack it daily. I am so happy! I waited 23 months. At 71, on the older end, but as I posted bf/ I am in excellent shape and worked out 7 days a week for the past 13 months. Am eating well but still no sweets, spicy food or gas causing food. Essentially the same way I have been eating for 23 months! My surgeon has been wonderful. I do what she advises. Loose stool is very manageable. I will never look back!

    • I’m scheduled to have my reversal in 2 weeks. How are you doing now? Can you post an update on your progress
      I’m scheduled to have my reversal in 2 weeks. How are you doing now? Can you post an update on your progress says:

      Mary, if you can please tell me how you’re doing now

  9. Edith Rodriguez
    Edith Rodriguez says:

    Hi everyone! Jan 2021 they took out all my large intestine because I was having chronic constipation for a long time, after this surgery I was going to the restroom a lot, it went from 32 times a day to 8 times a day progressively. Than, in July 2021 I went to the ER and after a CT scan they said I had 3 ruptures in my small intestine, so they had to do an emergency surgery and I ended up with an colectomy bag, I’m thinking about getting a reverse surgery but I’m afraid to get worse than it is right now. I’m reading all of you all experiences and now I’m really thinking about it. ?

  10. Mary
    Mary says:

    Released today. So happy. Old stoma site remains open, but doctor says I am packing correctly. Perhaps another 3 weeks to closure. I am so happy! Sphincter control excellent. Lose stool is slowing. I sent all of my supplies except the bags, to a friend. I have never, ever been happier! 23 months of bagging is over!

  11. Eric True
    Eric True says:

    After reading everything in this form, the many comments that are negative, I am scared to death! I have my reversal coming up in 6 days time. I’m almost considering leaving the pouch on my side as I have managed to get control of it. Very nervous about it all and undetermined in my mind. Thanks for all your comments

    • Laura Nevitt
      Laura Nevitt says:

      Hi Eric! I was just wondering if you went thru with your reversal and if so, how is it going? I am set to have my reversal 5/25/22. I too am nervous about the bathroom trips

  12. Marc m
    Marc m says:

    Hi All,

    I had my Stoma reversal March 9th.
    All was going OK aside from bathroom trips 20 to 30 guns a day.
    Then slowed to like every 20 minutes about 10 times.
    But now I have a very hardness under ostomy scar.
    Massive constipation with Miralax my only way to excrete.
    I am freaking out. First I thought I had hernia but had ct scan and nothing.
    Any thoughts. Common experience?

  13. Karen
    Karen says:

    Had take down surgery (temporary ostomy for Crohn’s Disease) in 2018 and they took my gallbladder at the same time. Surgical recovery was fine but from a digestive standpoint it’s been four years of hell. The first year was horrid bloating, gas and distension – by evening I had to lie on the floor for relief. A year after takedown the surgeon “resected the resection” to hopefully help it work better, but it didn’t help. I have severe bloating, gas, diarrhea and nausea almost every day. I have to wear loose clothing and it’s hard to go out anywhere. I have a permanent raised circle on my abdomen from bag attachment. Anyone else experience a complete change in digestive habits after a takedown? I had had three Crohn’s surgeries previously without such complications and recovered fine. I would never have another temporary ileostomy. An MRE a week ago showed no Crohn’s activity, which is great, except that I feel awful. Any insight would be great.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] to be permanent unless I developed problems down the road. In April of 2017 I was able to get it reversed (taken […]

  2. […] penulis mencatat bahwa sebagian besar operasi pembalikan ileostomi terencana terjadi 3-6 bulan setelah operasi awal seseorang, selama individu tersebut tidak mengalami komplikasi apa pun […]

  3. […] depending upon the physicality of the ostomy, a reversal in a matter of six months to a year is either discussed or promised to the patient. It is usually […]

  4. […] just discovered that her colostomy, which resulted from the loss of some of her colon, will not be reversed, as she had hoped. It is too dangerous, and her ulcerative colitis is rearing its ugly head. […]

  5. […] United Ostomy Associations of America: Facts About Ostomy Reversals (https://www.ostomy.org/facts-ostomy-reversals/) […]

  6. […] was fortunate to have a reversal three months later. I recovered quickly with no further health issues. I have a scar, but it […]

  7. […] reading a lot about ostomy reversals, and there’s an article this month from the UOAA, “Facts About Ostomy Reversals“. This article focuses on reversals after colorectal cancer, but the information applies to […]

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