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Orbach, C.E. (1974). Ideas of Contamination in Postoperative Colostomy Patients. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(2):269-282.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(2):269-282

Ideas of Contamination in Postoperative Colostomy Patients

Charles E. Orbach, Ph.D.


A sample of forty-eight patients with a dry colostomy, twenty-four men and twenty-four women, were included in this investigation. The surgical procedure involved in the construction of a colostomy consisted of an abdomino-perineal resection of the rectum and the creation of an artificial anus in the abdominal wall. The sample of forty-eight patients was selected from a group of twenty-nine male and twenty-eight female clinic outpatients at the Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. The latter group all had abdomino-perineal resections for rectal carcinoma with resultant dry colostomy five or more years before the initiation of the investigation. The above fact indicates that these patients were regarded as free from recurrent disease. The exclusion of nine subjects from this study was based upon their difficulty communicating feelings and attitudes associated with the experience of living with a colostomy.

The age range of the study group was from thirty-five to eighty-one years with a median of 62.5 years for the men and 60.5 years for the women. The religious composition of the group was predominately Jewish, twenty-nine patients in all. Of the remaining nineteen patients eight were Catholic and eleven Protestant. A total of twenty-two patients had as their country of origin Russia and Eastern Europe, eighteen were born in the United States, seven were born in Western Europe, and one woman was born in Central America. The educational level of the group was relatively low, with twenty-two patients who did not complete grammar school and twelve who did. In addition, eight did not complete high school, two did complete high school, two had some college, and two graduated from college.

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