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An ostomy is a surgical procedure to create a stoma, or man-made opening, in the digestive tract. The creation of this controlled pathway allows waste to pass through and out of the body into a bag or pouch. Thanks to recent medical advancements, the pouching systems used today are discreet and practically invisible, even under form-fitting clothing.
Ostomy surgeries are performed due to different digestive and urological diseases and conditions, including Crohn’s disease, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease. People with ostomies (referred to as ostomates) are just as independent as those who have not had the operation, and most live healthy, active lifestyles with the freedom to participate in any activity they choose.
Because stoma size may vary over time, ostomates may need to switch to a different type of ostomy bag from time to time. Additionally, physicians stress the importance of keeping ostomy supplies, including ointments, pouches, and stoma deodorants, readily available. Here are some factors to consider when choosing an ostomy bag:
A stoma may be temporary or permanent, and located in the small intestine (ileostomy), colon/rectum (colostomy), or bladder (urostomy). Manufacturers design ostomy bags with these three types of surgery in mind – be sure to select the appropriate model.
One-piece systems include a skin barrier (called a wafer) in itself, while two-piece systems have a separate skin barrier that’s attached to the ostomy bag.
One-piece systems are quick and easy to apply, great for those with arthritis or hand pain. One-piece bags should be changed daily to ensure hygiene safety and reduce risk of infection.
In a two-piece pouching system, the wafer is designed to stay on the stoma for a couple of days, while the bag itself is either disposed of or replaced with a clean one. The wafer connects with the bag via an adhesive flange, or pressure snap ring.
Two-piece pouches allow for more flexibility since you can easily remove the pouch without having the change the skin barrier. You can simply switch to a different sized pouch, depending on your activities for the day. However, two-piece pouches can be messy if the wafer accidentally detaches from the bag.
Ostomy pouches are either clear or opaque. The transparent type allows doctors and nurses to check on your stoma, urine, and stool. At home, many people prefer to use opaque pouches so they won’t have to see the waste contents within the bag.
Two-piece and one-piece ostomy pouches can either be drainable or closed. Closed ostomy bags are single use and should be replaced with a new one when it’s a third to a half full.
Drainable pouches are ideal for frequent liquid output, and can easily be emptied compared to closed pouches. These bags are sealed using either Velcro or clamps. Open-ended bags also don’t require changing as often as closed pouches.
To ensure skin health, the ostomy pouch should be well-fitted. Without proper care, your skin can become irritated, preventing a sturdy seal between the pouching system and your body. Use protective powder or ostomy pastes to protect and moisturize your skin.
It is important that your ostomy bag stays secure and free of odors, and that your stoma stays clean and free of infection. Contact your doctor or WOC (wound, ostomy, continence) nurse if you have questions on how to properly use an ostomy pouch system, how to treat skin infections around your stoma and more. You may also call us at 1-800-998-7750 Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.