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How to manage a high-output stoma
  1. Jeremy M D Nightingale
  1. Gastroenterology, St Marks Hospital, Harrow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jeremy M D Nightingale, Gastroenterology, St Marks Hospital, Harrow HA1 3UJ, UK; jnight{at}


A high-output stoma (HOS) or fistula is when small bowel output causes water, sodium and often magnesium depletion. This tends to occur when the output is >1.5 -2.0 L/24 hours though varies according to the amount of food/drink taken orally. An HOS occurs in up to 31% of small bowel stomas. A high-output enterocutaneous fistula may, if from the proximal small bowel, behave in the same way and its fluid management will be the same as for an HOS.

The clinical assessment consists of excluding causes other than a short bowel and treating them (especially partial or intermittent obstruction). A contrast follow through study gives an approximate measurement of residual small intestinal length (if not known from surgery) and may show the quality of the remaining small bowel.

If HOS is due to a short bowel, the first step is to rehydrate the patient so stopping severe thirst. When thirst has resolved and renal function returned to normal, oral hypotonic fluid is restricted and a glucose-saline solution is sipped. Medication to slow transit (loperamide often in high dose) or to reduce secretions (omeprazole for gastric acid) may be helpful. Subcutaneous fluid (usually saline with added magnesium) may be given before intravenous fluids though can take 10–12 hours to infuse. Generally parenteral support is needed when less than 100 cm of functioning jejunum remains. If there is defunctioned bowel in situ, consideration should be given to bringing it back into continuity.

  • short bowel syndrome
  • IBD Surgery
  • malabsorption
  • nutritional support
  • surgical complications

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  • Collaborators None.

  • Contributors JMDN has written all of this article based upon clinical experience, research and literature reviews.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests Chairman of the Adjudication committee for a phase III multicentre, double blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, efficacy and safety trial of Apraglutide (VectivBio AG).

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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