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Rectal leaking after colostomy surgery

My father had a colostomy for bowel cancer a year ago. Now a substance leaks from his rectum. He can't go out and it leaks a lot at night. What is causing this?

This must be upsetting for your father. If it is a clear discharge that doesn't smell, it may just be mucus. Some people also occasionally pass whitish bowel motion like substances from the rectum after colostomy surgery. This is mucus mixed with dead cells from the lining of the rectum and lower bowel. The lining of the bowel and rectum makes mucus. This keeps the lining of the bowel moist and helps the stool pass through without causing any damage. 

The rectum can make quite a lot of mucus. After a colostomy, the rectal tissue still makes the mucus, even though no stool is passing through. The mucus can leak from the rectum and may be quite distressing for some people to cope with.

Sometimes steroid suppositories can reduce the amount of mucus. Your father's doctor can prescribe the suppositories. It may be helpful to contact your father's GP or district nurse and ask to be put in touch with the local continence adviser. This is a specially trained nurse who advises people on all sorts of problems to do with the bladder and bowel. They can show you some small throw away pads that your father could use so that he can go out without worrying about leaks. There are larger pads for night time use. Your father's colostomy nurse should be able to help if you can't get hold of a continence adviser.

If the leakage is green or yellowish and smells strongly, then your father should contact his specialist. He may have an infection that needs treating. If the mucus is really disrupting your father's life, then he could have surgery to remove the remaining part of the rectum. His surgeon could advise him about whether this is possible.

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Updated: 16 September 2013