Your ostomy pouch is a heavy-duty plastic bag that you wear outside your body to collect your stool (“poop”). Using an ostomy pouch is the best way to handle your bowel movements after certain kinds of surgery on the colon or small intestine.
Your stool may be liquid or solid, depending on the kind of surgery you had. You may need your ostomy for just a short time. You may also need it for the rest of your life.
The ostomy pouch attaches to your belly, away from your belt line. It will be hidden under your clothing. The “stoma” is the opening in your skin where the pouch attaches.
Usually you can do your normal activities, but you will have to change your diet a bit and watch for skin soreness. The pouches are odor-free, and they do not allow gas or stool to leak out when they are worn correctly.
Your nurse will teach you how to care for your ostomy pouch and how to change it. You will need to empty it when it is about 1/3 full, and change it about every 2 to 4 days, or as your nurse tells you.
Collect your supplies before you start. You will need:
Many medical supply stores will deliver right to your home. Your nurse will get you started with the supplies you will need. After that, you will order your own supplies.
The bathroom is a good place to change your pouch. Empty your used pouch into the toilet first, if it needs emptying.
After some practice, changing your pouch will get easier.
Gather your supplies. If you have a 2-piece pouch, be sure you have the special ring seal that sticks to your skin around the stoma.
Follow these steps to prevent infection:
Check and seal your skin:
Measure your stoma:
Attach the pouch:
Call your doctor or nurse if:
Ostomy. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons. Accessed December 17, 2008.
Altman G. Changing a bowel diversion ostomy appliance. In: Delmar’s Fundamental and Advanced Nursing Skills. 2nd ed. Seattle, Wa: Delmar Learning; 2000:chap 6.
Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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