Ostomy Construction & Care
Sometimes part of the digestive tract is unable to work or is damaged due to conditions like cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. When the colon can’t work like it should, patients may need surgery to divert waste from the body.
An ostomy is a procedure in which the healthy portion of the intestine is connected to a hole (stoma) in the surface of the abdomen. Waste leaves the body through the stoma. An odor-proof pouch is placed around the outside of the new opening to collect the waste. The procedure may be short-term or permanent depending on the condition.
The system used in an ostomy is made up of a waste-collecting pouch attached to a barrier that sticks to the skin around the opening. There are a few steps that are part of caring for an ostomy.
Emptying the ostomy pouch
Pouches filled with waste and gas can be emptied by draining or replacing them, depending on the type of pouch used. Pouches should be emptied when they are one-third to one-half full.
- Drainable pouches are emptied by unclipping the pouch over a toilet seat and allowing the pouch to drain.
- Disposable pouches can be unsnapped and thrown away.
Replacing the pouch system
The pouch system is usually replaced daily to once a week, depending on personal preference and the kind of pouch used.
- Removing the old pouch should be done gently.
- Adhesive remover can be used to reduce skin irritation.
- The surrounding skin can be cleaned and should be rinsed well and dried.
- If the skin under the pouch becomes irritated, patients can sprinkle on protective powder and blot when changing the system.
Your doctor may also have you measure the opening periodically or irrigate the ostomy. Irrigation helps you control when waste is removed, but requires approval by your physician.
For more information about ostomies, see the United Ostomy Associations of America.