April 21, 2024

Navigating Life with a Colostomy: A Guide to Colostomy Bags

What is a Colostomy?
A colostomy is a surgical procedure in which part of the colon is diverted through an opening in the abdomen (the stomach area), called a stoma. This is done to allow the waste, or poop (stool or feces) from the colon to exit the body. The end of the diverted colon is attached to the opening in the abdomen. This opening is called a stoma. The patient needs to wear a special baging system called a colostomy bag or pouch to collect the poop outside of their body.

Reasons for Colostomy
There are several reasons why one may need to undergo a colostomy surgery. Some of the common reasons are:

Cancer: Colorectal or colon cancer is one of the leading causes of colostomy. Cancer in the colon or rectum may require removing part of the diseased bowel. This necessitates diverting the colon outside the body via a stoma.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease that cause inflammation of the bowels can damage the colon over time. To rest the colon or remove damaged sections, a temporary or permanent colostomy may be required.

Damage to the Bowel: Injuries to the colon due to traumatic events like an automobile accident or gun shot wounds often require a diverting colostomy procedure to heal. Certain medical conditions that damage the colon like diverticulitis also warrant colostomy at times.

Types of Colostomies
There are two main types of colostomies based on whether they are temporary or permanent:

Temporary Colostomy: It is also called an end colostomy or loop colostomy. In this type, only a loop of the colon is diverted from the lower end to allow the bowel above the stoma to heal after surgery. Once it has healed sufficiently, usually after 2-3 months, surgery is done to reconnect the bowel inside the abdomen.

Permanent Colostomy: It is required when a diseased, injured or cancerous section of the colon needs to be removed altogether. In this situation, the remaining section of healthy colon is diverted outside the abdomen through a permanent stoma created for bowel emptying.

Working of a Colostomy Bag
A colostomy bag or pouch is an external removable bag attached to the skin around the stoma opening to collect bowel waste. It provides patients freedom and discreetly allows them to continue normal activities. Here’s how it works:

– The bag has an adhesive border that is cut to size and sticks securely to the skin around the stoma.

– As poop passes through the stoma opening, it collects in the bag instead of going through the usual gastrointestinal route.

– The bags are designed not to leak and let waste accumulate until it needs to be emptied.

– When full, the bag can be disconnected from the adhesive barrier and disposed of hygienically in the toilet.

– A new, empty bag is then attached to continue waste collection effectively.

Caring for a Colostomy Bag and Stoma
Proper care of the stoma site and bag is essential for the comfort and well-being of a colostomy patient. Some key aspects of care include:

– Keeping the skin around the stoma clean and dry using gentle soap and water.

– Checking for signs of irritation like redness or rawness and taking measures to protect the skin.

– Emptying the bag regularly as per the amount of stool output to keep it functional.

– Gently cleaning under the flange area when removing an old bag before attaching a new one.

– Routinely changing bags every 3-4 days or sooner if soiled or leaking to avoid infections.

– Monitoring the stoma for color changes, swelling or prolapse and reporting any abnormalities to the doctor.

– Applying barrier rings or strips under the flange for better adhesion and skin protection if needed.

With diligent care and maintenance, colostomy bags allow people to continue their daily lives normally and comfortably after surgery requiring diversion of the colon. Proper education regarding bag changes and stoma care is important for patients to manage this life-changing condition effectively.


  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it