One of the major adjustments for those that have gone through a colostomy is the need for the daily use of various colostomy supplies. Although most new patients may feel uncomfortable at first having a more hands on approach to their waste management and stoma care, after some time to get used to everything it all becomes routine. Over the years, the quality of colostomy supplies has significantly improved with patients feeling more confident in being able to avoid embarrassing odors or accidental breakages and leaks. Colostomy management has gotten a bit easier than it was in the past and below is a list of some of the colostomy supplies one might encounter and incorporate in their colostomy care routine.
Colostomy Pouches (Bags)
Pouches are the staple piece of equipment for colostomy care. As fecal matter exits the body it needs to be collected in something to avoid getting all over the patient. A colostomy bag is used for this purpose and come in different assortments based on the individual’s needs. Pouches can be open (drainable) or closed or come in one piece or two piece variety.
Both types of pouches make use of a skin barrier, sometimes referred to as a wafer. The main purpose of the skin barrier is to protect the stoma and and surrounding skin from as much contact with the waste material that exits the stoma as possible keeping it clean.
- Closed Pouches: This type of ostomy bag is usually used by those that have a sigmoid colostomy or a descending colostomy. Since these types of colostomies tend to produce firmer stools the contents of the bag wouldn’t lend themselves to draining effectively out of the bag as is done with an Open Pouch. Closed pouches are used once and then disposed of when full.
- Open Pouches: These types of colostomy pouches have a draining mechanism at the bottom of the bag. Once the bag is full, the contents are able to let out of the bottom of the bag and it is able to be reused if desired with proper cleaning. These are ideal for those with ascending or transverse colostomies where the waste material being collected tends to be loose and somewhat watery.
How a pouch is attached to the body and kept in place is usually done in two ways and these types of pouches are often referred to as either one piece or two piece. Both can be of the open or closed variety discussed above.
- One Piece: This type of colostomy bag has the adhesive connection as part of the pouch and it is all one unit. Removing and replacing the bag involves constant detaching and reapplying of the adhesive connection to the skin around the stoma. This might tend to cause skin irritations in some patients.
- Two Piece: With this type of unit a flange with an adhesive connection is placed around the stoma and the colostomy pouch is then attached to the flange. When removing the bag the flange stays in place and is replaced with a new bag that is then reconnected to the flange. There are two separate pieces, the pouch and the coupling around the stoma that the colostomy bag attaches to. Not having to constantly attach and remove adhesive to the skin can be beneficial to those prone to skin irritations. Some two piece systems have the pouch attach to the base plate on the coupling with adhesive while other systems may have the the pouch snap onto the base without the need for any adhesive.
There are certain types of films that can be placed on the skin around the stoma where the adhesive makes contact to reduce skin irritation and help those with sensitive skin.
Ostomy supplies today are better constructed and made of more durable material than in years past. For odor control some pouches come with adjustable charcoal filters built into them. Colostomy bags are usually made in a flattened shape to be better concealed under clothing so those wearing the appliances can feel more self assured about not sticking out in public, which is a concern for some people.
After your surgery, your specialized ostomy nurse should go over with you all the different pouching systems available to you and help you decide which one should work best for your needs. You should have a complete understanding and feel confident in which colostomy supplies you will be using. Your nurse will make sure you know how to change, empty, dispose of, care for and clean all of your ostomy supplies as well.
Other Colostomy Supplies
Some other ostomy supplies that are optional in caring for your colostomy but may provide tremendous benefits depending on your situation include:
Colostomy Belts: These belts offer support, concealment and some protection to the colostomy pouch. Often made of a stretchable, breathable material, they prevent the pouch from moving during most activities. Some ostomy belts an opening for access to the pouch without the need to remove the belt first. Some belts provide a waterproof environment for the pouch so wearers can go swimming without worry.
Stoma Guards: Made of various materials, these can be worn to provide added protection to the stoma and pouch when partaking in certain physical activities. Some guards can help patients with hernias as well.
Pouch Covers: These can serve both functional and decorative purposes. Made of different materials, they go over your colostomy pouch and can help prevent the pouch from harshly rubbing against the skin causing irritation. Some pouches come with openings for easy access to the pouch and can be made for both open and closed pouches. They also come in a variety of colors and designs for those who wish to have a different look than the standard colostomy bag.
Pouch Liners: These can be placed inside the pouch and fastened in place. When it is time to empty the contents simply open the bag and pull out the full liner. These come in flushable varieties so that they can be conveniently flushed down any toilet.
Skin Creams: For those with sensitive skin that is prone to irritation, skin creams and ointments are available to be used in the area around the stoma.
Cleaning Supplies and Oils: For those who use reusable pouches proper cleaning is a necessity. Your ostomy nurse should show you how to clean all of your supplies. Some people like to use fragrant oils on their pouches after cleaning to make them smell fresh.
As you can see, there is wide array of appliances available for people living with a colostomy. From pouches to covers, the quality and quantity of colostomy supplies can help patients lead a confident, healthy and productive life.