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Chapter 21: Stoma Appliances - 1900's to the Present Day

With the advent of the 21st Century, it would be fitting to look at how the colostomy, ileostomy and urostomy appliances of the 20th century have evolved with the aid of the cutting edge technology of the particular era.

I was tempted to call this article the “First 100 years of the Colostomy” but there are records dating back to the pre-Christian era, which tell how abdominal stab wounds would discharge contents from a protrusion of the large intestine (Verlag V, Druik KG. Stoma Care, Medical Focus 2: Special Edition, 1989)

Realising this it becomes apparent just how much things have advanced in the colostomy world over the last hundred years, and how before that there was little or no advancements made.

The pictures below are a graphical indication of what being a colostomist in the associated decades would have been like. With the absence of today’s modern adhesives, and the designs being somewhat cumbersome to say the least, it puts our present Colostomy lives in perspective. Maybe things are bad at the moment for yourself, or indeed for me, but looking back at these pictures you can’t help but feel that things are not as bad now as they were then, and could have been today.

Who do we have to thank for this improvement? The manufacturers? The surgeons? The patients? Most probably a little bit of all three.

St Marks hospital in London, is World renowned as the premier bowel hospital in the World and is the hospital all the students go to to learn bowel surgery. The main walkway on Level three which connects the hospital to the neighbouring Northwick Park hospital has a series of historical memories of the hospital and it’s advancement in the medical science field since it was founded by Frederick Salmon in the 1860’s. One of the pictures shows the world’s first colostomy pouch, drawn by an artist in that era.

It is no exaggeration when I say it hangs from the abdomen, down to the knees, it is strapped into place by bandages, and is made from very heavy looking rubber. It looks bizarre like it’s from the dark ages, and I suppose you could argue that the 1860’s were the dark ages compared to today’s medical science.

So next time you curse your appliance and the fact you have a stoma (which we all do from time to time) try to think back to these pictures and how much worse things would be if you were born twenty, thirty or forty years earlier.

Some people reading this may even remember some of the pouches featured here, if this is the case I hope that you can agree that the Colostomist’s life is as good as it ever has been, and that with the developments that can be made over the next decade or two could see equally radical improvements in our lifestyles thanks to the ever evolving world of medical science and appliance design.

Photographs on this page are provided by, and copyrighted to, Coloplast UK Ltd. These pictures originally appeared in "Charter"; the magazine they publish every quarter for UK ostomists, and are used with their permission. To get your free copy call them on 0800 132787, or visit their website for more details.

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