Is Discharge From a Rectal Stump Normal?

The intestine is not connected, but it still keeps producing mucus

Some people who have had surgery for their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or for another reason may have their small or their large intestine diverted to a stoma. Waste material (stool) will leave the body through the stoma, where it is collected in an ostomy bag or pouch.

In some cases, a person will have a stoma but will also still have their rectum. In this case, though, the rectum is not currently being used to hold stool. The stool leaves the body through the stoma and doesn't enter the rectum.

Sometimes there can still be discharge from the bottom, where the rectum and the anus are, even though there's a stoma. How often there is a need to empty some fluid out of the rectum, and why, will vary from person to person. In many cases, this is a normal, expected occurrence and is nothing to be worried about.

If the discharge from the bottom is bloody or smelly, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss it as soon as possible.

What Is Ostomy Surgery?

colostomy is created when part of the large intestine is removed from the body. The end of the remaining intestine is then connected to the abdomen through a surgically created stoma. Waste (stool) leaves the body through a stoma and is collected in an appliance that is worn on the outside of the body.

An ileostomy is when it is the small intestine that is connected to the abdominal wall. This is usually after the large intestine has been completely removed, but sometimes the large intestine is left (typically in order for it to heal) inside and is just bypassed through the use of the stoma.

People who have a permanent stoma may choose either to have their rectum removed or to keep it. Those who have the potential to reverse their ostomy in the future may elect to keep their rectum.

model of rectum with hemorrhoids
Doctor holding anatomically correct model of rectum with internal and external hemorrhoids and other rectal conditions. Getty/E+/ericsphotography

The amount of rectum remaining will vary from person to person and will depend greatly on the reason for the ostomy, such as those that are performed to treat IBD, ​colon cancer, trauma, or another condition.

Why the Rectum Might Have Discharge

The rectum is living tissue and continues to produce mucus even though it is not "hooked up" to anything, and stool is not currently passing through it. Mucus is a part of normal stool, although not usually present in a great enough quantity for it to be visible. In the absence of stool, mucus passing through the rectum becomes more apparent.

Mucus might be relieved out of the rectum by sitting on the toilet and passing it as one would pass stool. 

What to Do About Leaks

Some people find that the mucus could leak out of the rectum at times, especially if it tends to be of a watery consistency. Some gauze or a sanitary napkin worn in the undergarments may help catch unexpected leaks. It may also help with leaks to periodically sit on the toilet to try to expel the mucus even before feeling the need to pass it.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

If the amount of mucus is excessive, particularly bothersome, has a foul odor, or is green or yellow in color, it may need to be investigated by a physician. Call your healthcare provider if you find that you are experiencing any pain or other symptoms connected with the rectum or the passing of mucus.

Seeing blood mixed in with the mucus may not be the result of a serious problem, but it should still be discussed with a healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

In some cases, the surgical team may forget to mention that there could be discharge from the bottom after ostomy surgery. Feeling the urge to sit on the toilet when one has a stoma can be confusing, but it is a normal occurrence.

The natural tissues connected to the rectum will continue producing bacteria and other substances. Normally these fluids leave the body in stool, but in the case of a diversion such as an ostomy, they will need to leave on their own. It may be difficult to contain these fluids at the time because they are not mixed with stool.

Having leaks does not necessarily mean that if the ostomy is reversed, stool will leak out, because stool is different than a buildup of mucus and other fluids.

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Article Sources
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  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Ostomy surgery of the bowel. Updated August 2014.

  2. American Cancer Society. What is an ileostomy?. Updated October 16, 2019.

  3. National Health Services. Complications: ileostomy. Updated February 25, 2019.

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