Ostomy Care

What are an ostomy and a stoma?

Sometimes all or part of your bowel or bladder needs to be removed to treat a disease. You may then need a new way for bowel movements or urine to leave your body. The surgeon can make a new passageway for bowel movements or urine by making an opening in the belly. The opening is called an ostomy. The surgeon uses part of the bowel (intestine) to create the passageway through this opening for emptying bowel movements. A piece of bowel, or part of the ureter, the tube that drains urine from the kidney, may be used to create the opening for emptying urine. The part that surrounds the opening on the skin is called the stoma.

The stoma is protected with an appliance. Many types of ostomy appliances may be used. The appliance may be a cover or cap for the stoma. Or it may be an ostomy bag that collects bowel movements or urine. The type you have depends on your needs and the type of ostomy you have. Talk with your healthcare provider about this.

Most hospitals have specially trained staff who will teach you how to change and care for your ostomy. You may want to have family members also learn about your care so they can help you at first and give you support. Some of the things you will learn include:

  • Changing the ostomy appliance. Some appliances may need to be changed every day. Others can be used for as long as 7 days before needing to be changed. You will learn how often you need to change your appliance and how to do it.
  • Covering the stoma. You will learn how to measure the size of your stoma to make sure you are using the right size of opening in your appliance to cover the stoma. The wrong size opening may allow bowel movements or urine to leak onto your skin, which can cause redness, swelling, and discomfort.
  • Cleaning the stoma. You will need to clean the area around the stoma each time you change your appliance.
  • Emptying an ostomy with a pouch. In most cases, people with an ostomy need to wear an ostomy bag, or pouch, over the stoma to collect stool or urine as it drains. Ostomy bags must be emptied regularly so that they do not become too heavy and leak.
  • Emptying an ostomy without a pouch. If you have an ostomy with a pouch inside your body, the pouch must be drained several times a day with a flexible tube called a catheter.

Also ask your provider about any changes you should make in your normal lifestyle (including sexual activity). For example:

  • Chewing foods well and drinking plenty of fluids. You may want to limit foods that can cause gas and odors, such as cabbage, onions, beans, and fizzy drinks.
  • Avoiding heavy lifting and contact sports to prevent injury to the stoma.
  • Preventing odor by cleaning the bag well and using a bag deodorant.
  • Using a room deodorizer if needed.
  • Not wearing tight clothing over the stoma and bag.

You can get more information from:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-12-24
Last reviewed: 2014-11-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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