Choosing ostomy supplies can be overwhelming. Ostomy bags come in various types, styles, and sizes, and although it often comes down to personal preference, it’s still important to know the pros and cons of each ostomy bag type.
This product guide will give you the information about what an ostomy bag is, what the different bag types exist, and how to choose one that best fits your needs.
What Is an Ostomy Bag?
An ostomy bag (or pouch) is a small, waterproof bag used to collect waste from the digestive or urinary system. After ostomy surgery, the bodily waste passes through the stoma (opening) in the abdomen and into the ostomy pouch.
Ostomy pouches are typically worn outside the body and can easily be hidden under clothing. Wearing the proper ostomy bag will prevent stool, urine, or gas from leaking out.
Why Do I Need to Wear an Ostomy Pouch?
Ostomy pouches are necessary for many people who suffer from conditions like bowel injuries or obstructions, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and abdominal/pelvic cancers. The diversion of waste through a stoma may also be required for the treatment of certain conditions affecting the large intestine.
The ostomy bag attaches to the stoma and is designed to securely collect bodily waste from the stoma. As the ostomy has no muscle (and therefore cannot control the release of stool and gas), a bag is necessary.
The design of the pouches depends on the type of ostomy.
What Are the Different Types of Ostomy Bags?
A colostomy is created from a part of the large intestine and is typically placed on the lower left side of the abdomen. The stoma output is primarily firm, formed stool, which is why some people opt for a closed-end bag. A closed ostomy bag can be replaced a few times per day. In other people, however, the output is more liquid (and a drainable ostomy pouch may be best).
Temporary colostomy may be used when a part of the colon needs to heal from surgery or injury. When the colostomy is permanent, the pouch becomes an artificial outlet for the bowel.
An ileostomy is formed when the small intestine (ileum) is diverted through a stoma in the abdomen. An ileostomy bag is usually placed on the right side of the abdomen. The stoma output is in loose or liquid form and should be discarded frequently throughout the day. Most people with ileostomies opt for a drainable ostomy bag for their everyday activities.
A urostomy is created when a part of the small intestine diverts urine from the ureters through the stoma. The bladder is either removed or completely bypassed. A urostomy pouch is often found on the right side of the abdomen and the stoma output is urine. As the output is liquid, a drain spout connected to the ostomy leg bag (or overnight bag) is a good choice for people with urostomy.
How to Choose the Right Ostomy Bag?
It’s important to choose a pouch that you feel comfortable with, as well as one that fits into your everyday lifestyle. Some people prefer having a few different types of ostomy pouches to suit various types of activities. Larger bags, for instance, are often preferred during night time, as they have a bigger capacity and help to avoid leakage.
Note that ostomy bags should not be flushed down the toilet. If you are worried about odors emanating from your ostomy pouch, you can use a deodorizing product to neutralize the smell.
Ostomy pouches come in a wide variety of sizes. There are, however, two distinct types of appliances: one-piece and two-piece variations. Generally, one-piece systems include a wafer (skin barrier) and pouch. With two-piece systems, the wafer and the pouch are typically separate.
One-Piece Ostomy Bags
In a one-piece ostomy system, the ostomy bag and skin barrier (wafer/flange) are joined together. The ostomy wafer needs to be changed with each ostomy bag replacement. A one-piece ostomy bag may lead to skin irritation in some people due to the frequent appliance changes. When using a one-piece unit, the positioning of the pouch is essential in order to prevent leaking.
As one-piece ostomy bags are more discreet (compared to two-piece units), they are preferred by individuals who participate in sports or wear tight-fitting clothes.
Many of the one-piece ostomy pouches are pre-cut, though cut-to-fit options are also available. Pre-cut pouches are a great option when the stoma has been consistent and does not change its size.