Product Guide: How to Choose an Ostomy Bag - Express Medical Supply

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?

Colostomy 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.

Ileostomy Bags

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.

Urostomy Bags

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.


One-Piece Ostomy Bags - Express Medical Supply

Two-Piece Ostomy Pouches

Two-piece ostomy bags are generally more gentle on the skin as the barrier can remain in place for about 2-4 days. Furthermore, the ostomy bag can also be changed without the need to remove the skin barrier. Some people prefer different bag sizes for different situations, like smaller bags during sexual activity or larger bags while sleeping.


With a two-piece unit, the ostomy bag can be changed quicker than a one-piece system. Using a two-piece pouch, however, may be uncomfortable for some as it is often slightly bulkier.



Two-Piece Ostomy Bags - Express Medical Supply

Closed-End Pouches

Closed-end pouches are intended for one-time use only and can be replaced as often as you wish. These type of pouches should be discarded in a disposable bag (usually provided with the pouch).


Closed-end pouches can be used every day or only at certain times (e.g. before swimming, intimate activities).


Closed-end pouches are available in both one-piece and two-piece units.



Closed-End Pouches - Express Medical Supply

Drainable Pouches

Drainable pouches are suitable for colostomies, urostomies, and ileostomies.


The drainable pouch can be emptied as needed. One-piece bags should be changed every 2-3 days, depending on your personal preference. Two-piece drainable bags can be replaced when necessary, and the base place can be changed once or twice a week.


The content of your drainable bag can be emptied into the toilet and the pouch can be resealed with a velcro or clip fastener.


Drainable ostomy bags are available in both one and two-piece variations.



Drainable Pouches - Express Medical Supply

Pediatric/Mini Size Pouches

Pediatric and mini ostomy pouches are usually extremely discreet. They might be used by infants/children or adults who prefer a smaller size pouch. Although they are less visible under clothing, they have a small capacity and need to be emptied more often.


In infants, birth conditions that affect the flow and drainage of stool may require ostomy surgery – and therefore a pediatric pouch. In children, diseases that prevent the normal flow of bodily waste (e.g. cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, injury, trauma) may require surgery. If the affected portion of the intestine cannot be repaired, an ostomy surgery is performed. Many times, juvenile ostomies are temporary.


Pediatric/Mini

Stoma Caps

Stoma caps are small, closed pouches that offer a high level of discretion. Stoma caps are only intended to be worn for short periods of time. These products are typically used by individuals who use irrigation to regulate bowel movements, or who have a continent ostomy.


Though they are not an ostomy bag replacement, stoma caps can be used temporarily during sporting activities or intimate moments.



Stoma Caps - Express Medical Supply

Flanges and Wafers

Ostomy wafers (also known as flanges or skin barriers), are adhered to the skin around the stoma and connected to the ostomy pouch. The wafer fits around the stoma and protects the skin from bodily waste. The size and thickness of the wafer depends on the shape and size of the stoma.


Flanges come in pre-cut, cut-to-fit, and moldable options. Pre-cut ostomy barriers are sized based on the most common stoma sizes. With cut-to-fit barriers, you need to trim a hole into the wafer that is the same shape of your stoma. Cut-to-fit barriers are helpful when the stoma is not round or a standard size.


Moldable skin barriers are made of a material that is easily-shaped to fit around the stoma. ‘Turtle necking’ (or the process of molding the flange around the stoma) is typically done in a conical shape and is considered one of the best methods to prevent leakage.



Flanges and Wafers - Express Medical Supply

Choosing Your Ostomy Pouch

Living with an ostomy pouch is a new and sometimes overwhelming experience for many, and being comfortable with your body and life is essential. Choosing the right ostomy bag and managing the new changes will help you adapt and keep a healthy, active lifestyle.



Check out our wide range of ostomy pouch products and find the ones that best fit your body!


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