Post-Ostomy Reversal: Swelling, Nausea, and Incision Pain

Mar 30, 2023 4:39 pm

Five weeks ago, Feb 20, 2023, I had ostomy reversal surgery. Met with my surgeon two days ago for follow-up. He said everything looked great. Everything seems to be working properly. My bowel movements have returned to pretty much normal in amount, size, and color. The main problems I've had is I'm still very swollen. He said that's normal and could be swollen for a while since I've had my abdomen cut open twice within four months. My other concern is that I still have some nausea (I have never thrown up but I feel queasy sometimes after I eat). My surgeon said that my colon has to reawaken and that also is normal. Also, I have no internal pain other than some pain where the stoma was before I have a bowel movement. I do have incision pain. Not too bad. My question: So even though that was a good report I still have it in my head that I shouldn't still be swollen or that I shouldn't be nauseous or that my incision pain should be gone. I guess I am an impatient person and thought I would be running marathons 5 weeks out. So just wondering if anyone else experienced these symptoms or side effects after reversal. Thanks.

Mar 30, 2023 5:34 pm

In my non-expert medical opinion, I think you're doing good, but may be lacking in the patience department. I struggle with patience too. I had an ileostomy reversal in November and developed an ileus (small intestine decided not to wake up). I have slow digestion/motility issues even with having my colon gone. My colorectal surgeon knew I'd be nauseated coming home, but I begged her to let me be home for Thanksgiving, so I came home with Zofran to help with nausea. If you are still on any pain meds that can contribute to nausea as well. My incision from where the stoma was still hurts if I bend/twist just the right way. But I can do planks now, climb up the side of the bathtub to be able to reach to clean (I may be short), put weight on the incision sites to lean way down to the bottom of my washer. I got clearance to walk my dogs one at a time. I'd had reconstructive shoulder surgery last January before I knew my colon was dead-ish. I wouldn't have had that surgery if I'd known I'd have 2 more big surgeries this past year. I'm supposed to be in physical therapy but I wanted a break all things medical not realizing how far they were scheduling things out. Puffiness, really normal, everything is settling back down. Since I don't have any abdominal colon it felt like the wild west in my abdomen for a while as the small intestine and other organs figured out where they were gonna hang out.

Pace yourself, move a little slower for just a bit longer. You'll be through this part before you know it.

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Mar 30, 2023 10:39 pm

My reversal surgery was a much longer and harder recovery than my initial surgery also. I also developed an ileus that nearly killed me. It took nearly a year for everything to return to my new normal. I am still glad I did it but had 3 more open procedures due to adhesions. I lost 35 pounds between the initial surgery and reversal surgery that I have finally regained. Now my diet is unrestricted but I am more than 2.5 years out from the reversal. Give yourself time to heal.

Mabsie Moll
Apr 01, 2023 6:41 am

I had 3 big abdominal surgeries last June which left me with an ileostomy and abdominal fistula. I am still very weak, and I lost a lot of weight! I have not yet returned to work, nor would I be fit for work presently as I tire easily and it takes me up to 3 days to recover from the simple ventures we all take/took for granted! My job, which I love, is both physically and mentally demanding and my ileostomy aka, 'Molly' has a love relationship with the w.c.!, sometimes every 10 minutes!!! Add to that the frequent leaks and pancakes and it's just easier and more sane for me to stay at home rather than having to leave my young wards every few minutes to use the bathroom!!! So my energy has plummeted but all will be well again in time. I was only recently given the go ahead to attempt more strenuous outdoor activities by my surgeon ....but a chance meeting with him while window shopping/walking had him say to me that I should be home resting because my body has gone through a lot!!! You just couldn't make that up!!! Good news though!! I am due for reversal surgery at the end of this month, and although I am looking forward to gaining strength and less trips to the bathroom, I don't see myself going back to work til 2024. I have been/am very weak at times and live like a hermit for the most part since the ops. I can only wear certain loose fitting clothing for comfort (often not at all flattering!!!) except when I venture out which is rarely but I am getting better at that. I want to live a bit before I go back to work... Go on long walks, hikes, runs, cycle, have a holiday.. go shopping and browsing without the worry of a leak....the simple things of life.....LIVING!

So my advice after that long monologue is.... listen to your body...breathe...practise square breathing into your belly (breathe in for count of 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4 hold for 4....and repeat til you feel calm - it'll take a few rounds 3 or more depending on your state - and you can do it anywhere at anytime) and slow it all down. Focus on YOU and see everyone in your life supporting YOU.... The swelling will go in time, worrying will just cause you stress and you've been through enough of that already! The marathons will come around again, but for now rest more and take your time and practise patience with yourself and your body. You are literally just after a big operation.

As we say here in Ireland "tóg go bog é!" - pronounced- towg guh bug ay! which translates as "take it easy!"

Best of Luck!

Apr 02, 2023 1:23 pm

Your story is way better than some of the ones I've read on this site. My surgeon doesn't particularly want to do a reversal on me because with my first surgery, it almost killed me. He thinks the reversal may also be as bad or even worse and wanted me to wait at least a year before even considering it. It will be a year in June. I'm very hesitant about getting the reversal and since I feel pretty good now, I really don't want to go through that whole process again. A lot of what I read made it sound like it took up to a year to recuperate. That's a long time. You sound like you are doing very well. Wishing you much luck.

Stories of Living Life to the Fullest from Ostomy Advocates I Hollister
Apr 06, 2023 2:38 am
Reply to Virgo68

If you feel good now, why bother to have a reversal. I have no way of having a reversal as I have a Barbie, but I would have one if I could. Life is good and I love my bag.

Regards, Iggie

Apr 07, 2023 11:49 pm
Reply to IGGIE

I'm very much leaning towards not getting the reversal surgery because I do feel pretty good. I'll give it time and maybe think about it in the future. But it does scare me to do it.

Apr 08, 2023 11:56 am
Reply to Footie97

An ileus is the worst. Did you end up with an NG tube?

Apr 18, 2023 9:21 pm
Reply to Mabsie Moll

Sorry, it took me so long to get back. Your comments were very helpful. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! My wife and I would love to visit Ireland. My ancestors are from somewhere in Ireland, hence the name Kelley. Or so I've been told.

Grateful 34
Apr 22, 2023 10:56 pm

Hi, gfk374,

I am 5 months out from colostomy reversal surgery. I am just now finally feeling "normal" as far as body shape, bowel movements, etc. It sounds to me like you are right on track. Be patient, it takes some time. The swelling takes a bit to go down. I also had 2 surgeries within a short amount of time. Best of luck and congrats on your reversal!

Apr 22, 2023 11:59 pm
Reply to CrappyColon

Every time I have an open procedure, I end up with an ileus and an NG tube. My nostril is deformed from them being in for such a long period. I think 8 weeks in total over 5 surgeries. It beats the uncontrollable vomiting I have without the tube! ;By the way, I love the name "crappy!"

Apr 23, 2023 1:13 am
Reply to Footie97

Ugh, that is a long time with an NG tube. I really fought them on placing mine, but I didn't stabilize until after they did it, so I know they did the right thing for me. I just didn't like it. I didn't have any normal sickness, not even a cold since before Covid, but after the NG tube I've had 2 sinus infections and breathing through that side is different. My ENT said one more infection and they want to do a CT scan.
Thanks, I think? About Crappy, I should have known, huh?

Apr 23, 2023 9:02 am

NG and the one they put up your whistle is a bit like banging your head against a brick wall. It's so nice when you stop.

May 08, 2023 8:11 pm

I had my reversal a month earlier than yours. The problems I've had so far,...
- For the first week I had 5 to 10 loose bloody poos a day. Of course, I was quite sore around the surgery site, the first time I sneezed, I thought I would faint.
- The second week pooing became a little more normal, usually not more than 3 or 4 times a day. Still pain around the surgery site, but better.
- Week 3 for some reason I got diarrhea, and was back on the toilet 10 times a day, thankfully it went away in 5 days.
- Since then I've had steady improvement,... Now I have little to no pain, I eat anything I want, and have 2 pretty normal poos a day. I never really did have the swelling you did, also no nausea. I'm soooooo thankful for a successful outcome, I had seriously considered not having it done because of the numerous others having problems.
I think you're doing fine, and will continue to improve. Hang in there.

Jul 10, 2023 9:37 pm
Reply to Hateinit

My reversal is in three weeks and like you, I am so worried about the after-effects. It is good to read that some people do have an easier time with it. Thank you for sharing.