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A significant part of colostomy care involves changing, emptying, or cleaning your pouching system. Before you leave the hospital, you and your family will get proper information about how to take care of your colostomy.

How to empty the pouch

  • Wash your hands first. Put on medical gloves to keep the hands clean throughout the process.
  • You will need to empty your pouch when it is 1/3 to 1/2 full. Do not let the bag fill as it can cause pressure on the seal, leading to the skin barrier coming off.
  • Hold up the bottom of the pouch if there is a clamp system, and remove the clamp. You can also roll the end to prevent the bag from getting soiled.
  • Before emptying the pouch, place toilet paper into the toilet to avoid splashing. Squeeze the pouch to make sure that all contents in the bag are completely drained out.
  • Use tissue paper or a wet paper towel to clean the bottom of the pouch. If possible, rinse the pouch, but it won’t be necessary if it is not convenient. Make sure that the end of the pouch is clean.
  • Close the end of the pouch using the clamp.

Changing the pouching system

Your pouch-changing routine depends on the type of ostomy pouch you use. You will get specific instructions in this regard from your healthcare provider. You will need to ask how often to change your pouching system. Some pouches can stay in plat for 3-7 days. Others can stay for 1-3 days.

Here are the steps that you need to follow if you are using a one-piece ostomy pouch.

  • Clean the pouch before removing it. To remove the pouch, press the skin away from the skin barrier using one hand. Using the other hand, pull the skin barrier away from the peristomal skin.
  • Clean the skin around the stoma. Use plain water for cleaning. If you want to use soap, make sure that it doesn’t contain oils and perfumes. Pat the skin dry.
  • Make sure that the pouch you are about to use has an opening of the right size to fit over your stoma. Generally, the opening of the skin barrier should be 1/8 inch larger than your stoma.
  • Secure the seal using products such as stoma paste and powder.

Here are the steps to follow if you are using a two-piece ostomy pouch.

  • Remove the pouch and the faceplate. Empty the pouch before removing it. Remove the faceplate by pushing the skin away from the skin barrier with one hand, and pull the skin barrier with the other hand.
  • Clean the skin around the stoma using water. Do not use soap. If you want to use one, make sure that it doesn’t contain any oils or perfumes.
  • Make sure that the opening of the skin barrier fits the size of the stoma. It shouldn’t be tight fitting as it can injure the stoma.
  • To avoid skin irritation, use skincare products.

You are going to have to be specifically careful about peristomal skin health. Any complications in the peristomal skin area will not only cause pain, but it will also compromise the skin’s ability to properly adhere to the skin barrier, leading to further skin infections.

If you notice any signs of skin complications, contact your ostomy care nurse to discuss the solution.

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