What Are Ostomy Products?
An ostomy is a surgical operation that creates a new outside opening for body wastes. This new opening is called a stoma, and requires special products for daily care. For many with colon or bowel cancer, injuries or congenital defects, an ostomy is the best – sometimes only – option available in order to resume a normal, active life. The numbers vary, but range from 70,000 to 120,000 Americans undergoing ostomy surgery each year, witah approximately half a million ostomates currently living in the United States and Canada. Some stomas are meant to be temporary, while others are permanent. Several manufacturers such as Hollister, Coloplast and ConvaTec make terrific products which are designed for functionality, discreetness, and disposability. The placement of stomas can vary greatly, and this has a strong influence on which products are right for you.
Four Things I Need to Know Before Buying Ostomy Products
1) What size is my stoma? For the first few weeks or even months after surgery, your stoma may change in size and shape as your body recovers. Once recovered, your stoma should no longer change. This will influence whether you choose a Cut-to-Fit Barrier or a Pre-Cut Barrier.
- Cut-to-Fit barriers are designed to let you measure and cut the barrier yourself, so that they can perfectly fit any size or shape stoma. Cut-to-Fit barriers come with a sizing guide to help you easily measure your stoma any time you need to. This is most likely the barrier you would choose in the weeks following surgery, and if you prefer to cut the barrier yourself.
- Pre-sized barriers are barriers that have been pre-cut to a specific size, so that you don’t have to. Pre-sized barriers are useful for people whose stomas are a stable size and who no longer need to – or no longer prefer to – cut their own.
2) Where is my stoma located? Depending on the reason for your surgery, your stoma may be located in your small intestine, your large intestine, or in your urinary tract. For a stoma in the small intestine and in the earlier portions (ascending colon) of your large intestine, the discharge will be rich in digestive enzymes and more irritating to the skin. An Extended Wear Barrier is a good choice for this type of stoma because it offers more robust skin protection. A stoma in the later portions of the large intestine, such as in the transverse, descending and sigmoid colon, is less rich in digestive enzyme content, and a Standard Wear Barrier may be preferred. In addition, before ordering supplies you may want to consider whether or not you want a barrier with or without an additional tape border. While tape can always be added as desired for extra security, depending on your lifestyle, the barrier with tape may be a convenient choice for you.
3) What kind of barrier & pouch system do I need? There are two different types of barrier & pouch systems you can choose from: a One Piece System or a Two Piece System. Each system has its advantages, and for many people the choice comes down to personal preference. In a one piece system, the skin barrier is attached to the pouch, making the unit all one piece. In a two piece system, there is a skin barrier with flange (a snap-on ring) and a detachable pouch that snaps onto the barrier. The two piece system allows the user to easily change out the pouch without needing to remove the skin barrier. Both systems offer a variety of pouch options, including drainable or closed, opaque or transparent, or with or without filter, among others. While the many options to choose from can be overwhelming at first, the variety of products allows you to customize your products to match your own unique needs.
4) What size flange do I need? No matter which system you prefer, in order to purchase supplies you’ll need to know what size flange you need. This is because:
- In both a one piece and a two piece system, the size of your stoma determines the size flange that works best for you. Your flange size can be larger than your stoma size, but it can never be smaller.
- If you have a two piece system, it’s very important both pieces match each other! Since the pouch snaps onto the flange, your flange size is very important when ordering both pouches and barriers.
If you’re not sure what size flange you need, contact your WOCN (Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse). You can also obtain this information from the manufacturer number (MF#) on your current pouch, because each MF# is unique to a specific size as well as to a specific product.
Are you ready to order? Great! Don’t forget to take a moment to think about any additional products that may make your day-to-day usage more comfortable. From adhesive removers and pastes to deodorizing powders and lubricants, there are many terrific companion products available.