A Beginner's Guide to Ostomy Systems
Many people who are diagnosed with serious bowel or bladder issues, like diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, or bladder cancer, need ostomy systems to eliminate waste from their bodies.
Living with an ostomy takes some getting used to, but if you follow your doctor's recommendations and commit to a healthy lifestyle, you can return to work, exercise, and other activities you love.
If you care for someone with an ostomy system or you recently got one yourself, this guide provides a brief overview of what they are, the different types, and where you can stock up on the necessary supplies.
What is an ostomy system?
An ostomy system is a medical device that's attached to the end of your ureter, small intestine, or large intestine (colon) through a small hole in your abdomen called a stoma. The system allows urine and stool to exit your body through the stoma if you're unable to urinate or have bowel movements naturally.
Why would I need an ostomy system?
There are various reasons you might need an ostomy system, including:
A blocked bowel
Injury to your bowels or bladder
Colorectal, bladder, or rectal cancer
Bowel disorders (i.e., Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
You might also benefit from an ostomy if you develop diverticulitis or an infection.
What are the types of ostomy?
There are three types of ostomy systems; two (ileostomy and colostomy) help eliminate fecal matter and one (urostomy) removes urine.
Ileostomy involves your doctor running the bottom of your small intestine (ileum) through the stoma in your abdomen.
If you have part of your large intestine (colon) removed, you might benefit from a colostomy. That involves your doctor running a portion of your large intestine, or colon, through the stoma in your abdomen.
A urostomy redirects your ureter (the tube that carries urine from your bladder) through the stoma in your abdomen.
What are the types of ostomy pouching systems?
There are two main categories of ostomy pouching systems—one and two-piece systems (also referred to as one or two-piece pouches).
A one-piece system has a skin barrier wafer that's attached to a pouch. When the pouch gets full, you remove the entire system (both the skin barrier and the pouch) and replace it with a new one.
A two-piece system has a skin barrier wafer and an ostomy pouch that are separate from each other. When the pouch gets full, you can remove it, clean it, and reuse it. Or, you can replace it with a new one.
Are there different types of ostomy pouches?
Yes. There are two types of ostomy pouches—drainable pouches and closed-end pouches.
Drainable pouch. A drainable ostomy pouch can be emptied, cleaned, and reused multiple times. If you use your ostomy system several times a day, drainable pouches can save you a lot of money.
Closed-end pouch. Closed-end ostomy pouches are single-use only. Once the pouch is filled with urine or stool, you remove it and throw it away. Closed-end pouches are especially convenient if you lead a busy lifestyle and don't have time to clean your system regularly.
Do ostomy systems present side effects?
It's normal to experience mild gastrointestinal issues like gas, diarrhea, and constipation. Following surgery, your doctor may have you change your diet to help you adjust. Any stomach problems should resolve in a few weeks, but if they continue or get worse, don't wait to schedule a follow-up appointment.
Where can I buy ostomy supplies?
Here at Carewell, we carry various supplies, including adhesives, closures, and odor eliminator sprays. Below, we've highlighted some of our best selling products:
This adhesive skin barrier provides a protective layer between your stoma and colostomy pouch. It's designed for a one-piece ostomy system and has a flange and tan tape collar.
Many people who have an ostomy experience skin irritation. This protective powder absorbs excess moisture and extends the life of your skin barrier wafer.
This ostomy pouch from SenSura is drainable and features a wide outlet. It's designed for one-piece systems and is 11.5 inches long.
If you have an ostomy, you need adhesives to support the wafer and flange and to prevent leaks. Flex-Trak anchoring devices are made with modern acrylic that's safe for all skin types. The product is so sticky, it's capable of supporting both catheters and gastronomy tubes.
This pouch features a trim-to-fit design that makes it comfortable and discreet. What's more, the Flextend skin barrier is durable and keeps the pouch securely in place, whether you're walking the dog or working out at the gym.
If your ostomy leaves you feeling self-conscious, consider this odor eliminator spray. It's green apple-scented and contains a unique formula that neutralizes odors instead of covering them. Perfect for if you need to drain or replace your ostomy bag in a public setting.
It's important you keep your stoma clean to reduce the risk of infection. These wipes from Safe n Simple are gentle on the skin and formulated to eliminate adhesive residue. Each resealable pouch contains 50 wipes.
What if I have questions about ostomy supplies?
It takes time to adjust to an ostomy. At first, try different systems and see what works best for you and your lifestyle. If you have questions about the necessary supplies, reach out to our friendly Care Specialists by calling (855) 855-1666 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recommended read: Post-Surgery Recovery: 8 Supplies for After Hospital Care at Home
Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.