Is Discharge From a Rectal Stump Normal?

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

Some people who have surgery for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or another reason may have their small or their large intestine diverted to a stoma. A stoma is an opening for waste material (stool) to leave the body, 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 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 located, even though there's a stoma. The frequency of needing to empty some fluid out of the rectum varies from one person to another, along with the reasons for why this happens. In many cases, this is a normal, expected occurrence and there is nothing to worry about.

This article explains what ostomy surgery is, why the rectum may have discharge, what to do about leaks, and when it's time to consult your healthcare provider.

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

What Is Ostomy Surgery?

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

An ileostomy occurs when the small intestine 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 bypassed through the use of the stoma.

People who have a permanent stoma may choose to either have their rectum removed or keep it. Those who have the potential to reverse their ostomy in the future may elect to keep their rectum. The amount of rectum remaining will vary from person to person. It will depend greatly on the reason for the ostomy, such as those that are performed to treat IBD, ​colon cancer, trauma, or another condition.

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

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 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 can 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 to sit on the toilet periodically to try to expel the mucus even before feeling the urge to pass it.


You might have the benefit of working with a wound ostomy continence nurse, or an ostomy nurse for short. This registered nurse cares for and serves as a resource for ostomy patients.


When to See Your Healthcare Provider

If the mucus you're experiencing is excessive, particularly bothersome, has a foul odor, or is green or yellow in color, it may need to be investigated by a healthcare provider. Call yours if you feel any pain or symptoms related to your rectum or the passing of mucus.

Try not to panic if you see blood mixed in with the mucus. Chances are, it's nothing serious. But you should still bring the matter to the attention of your provider.

Summary

Colostomies and ileostomies are two types of ostomies. An ostomy is a procedure in which an opening is created in the skin so that waste can leave the body. The waste collects in a bag outside the body. A colostomy is formed from the large intestine while an ileostomy is formed from the small intestine. Colostomies and ileostomies are most often done for conditions related to the digestive tract. As a living tissue, the rectum continues to produce mucus even though it is not "hooked up" to anything, so some discharge is more than normal; it should be expected.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling the urge to sit on the toilet when one has a stoma can be confusing, but it's normal. 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.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Ostomy surgery of the bowel.

  2. American Cancer Society. What is an ileostomy?

  3. American Cancer Society. What is an ileostomy?

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