Colostomy Bag: 9 Important Tips to Prevent Leaks

9 Important Tips to Prevent Leaks

Leaking ostomy bags can be a nightmare for anyone with a colostomy, urostomy, or ileostomy. A leaky ostomy pouch means you’ll have to repeatedly change the bag and wash clothing or bedding, whether at night or during the day. There’s nothing worse than having to quickly dash somewhere to find somewhere to hide if your patient’s ostomy bag leaks in public. 

At Quality Life Services Home Health, we offer ostomy care as well as pre-and post-operative care. In this article, we’ll cover what you can do to ensure that you can prevent your patient’s ostomy bag from leaking.

What is a Colostomy?

In a colostomy, the colon is redirected from its normal route to a new opening in the abdominal wall. The opening is known as a stoma. Feces will now be expelled through the stoma rather than the anus from the colon, where it forms. A colostomy bag may be required to collect the fecal matter when it comes out. Some individuals require a colostomy for a few months, while others need it for the rest of their lives.

A colostomy frequently follows a colectomy, which is an operation that removes part or all of the colon. After the procedure, the term “colostomy” also refers to the newly rerouted colon. 

Why Would Someone Require a Colostomy?

A colostomy may be required if there is a medical condition stopping the person from properly using their anus or colon. It might be a short-term intervention to allow the body to recuperate, or it could be a long-term remedy to an irreparable illness.

The following conditions may necessitate a temporary colostomy:

  • A severe infection, such as diverticulitis
  • Acute inflammatory bowel illness inflammation (IBD)
  • Anal fistula 
  • An obstruction in the colon or anus.
  • Acute injury to the colon
  • Partial colectomies 

The following conditions may require a permanent colostomy:

  • Incurable fecal incontinence
  • Advanced colorectal cancer
  • Permanent rectum and/or anus removal

What Causes an Ostomy Bag to Leak?

This is one of the most often asked questions by ostomy patients. After all, nobody wants to constantly worry about unforeseen disasters.

But what causes ostomy bag leaks? As it turns out, many potential contributing factors influence the seal of an ostomy device.

Here are a few recommendations that address these factors and provide practical remedies for stoma bag leakage.

Ostomy Bag Leakage Prevention Tips

A leaky ostomy bag is never pleasant. Avoid leaks with the following recommendations:

  • Select the Right Ostomy Skin Barrier

First, ensure that the appropriate ostomy supplies are used for the specific body and stoma. The proper size and kind of skin barrier (a wafer) will cling tightly and protect the skin from irritation and leaking. This is significant because you’ll want stoma output to go into the ostomy pouch rather than below or around the skin barrier.

Furthermore, if the stoma is flush or recessed below the skin level, you could consider switching from a typical flat skin barrier to a convex one.

Convex skin barriers are helpful for people who suffer from:

  • Rounded abdomens
  • Hernias
  • Creases and folds in the skin
  • Flush or recessed stomas
  • Measure the Stoma to Determine the Appropriate Size For the Skin Barrier

Obtaining the appropriate size may determine how well the ostomy equipment fits. A skin barrier that does not fit snugly enough may allow stoma output to flow beneath or around it, resulting in leakage.

Here’s something you may not know: Even though you’ve been using the same size skin barrier for a while, it may no longer be the best fit today as it was months ago. This is because stoma shapes and sizes can change gradually over time, with the most notable changes occurring during the months and weeks following ostomy surgery.

  • Maintain the Health of the Peristomal Skin

If the skin around the stoma is weepy, raw, or itchy, it is a sign that something is wrong. Not only can skin conditions make it more challenging to keep the ostomy equipment secure and correctly sealed, but they can also create further problems if untreated.

First, discuss any skin concerns with a doctor or an ostomy nurse. They are trained to provide medical advice and may be able to identify the source of any problems, such as an allergic reaction, an ill-fitting ostomy pouch system, irritation caused by leakage, or too frequent skin barrier changes.

  • Apply the Ostomy Skin Barrier to Shaved, Clean Skin

Use a skin barrier to clean skin to ensure that the ostomy pouch remains tight and leak-free. Also, before applying the pouching system, ensure the peristomal skin is dry. In other words, dry the skin with a clean towel whether the patient has been sweating, swimming, or taking a bath or shower.

Avoid using greasy or alcohol-based lotions, soaps, or hair removal creams near the stoma. Make sure that you only use skincare products that are ostomy-safe.

If body hair surrounds the stoma, use a clean safety razor to carefully shave the area before placing the ostomy pouching system. Because hair regrowth might interfere with achieving a secure seal, you may need to shave it every few days.

  • For Added Protection, Consider an Ostomy Belt

Consider an ostomy belt if your patient’s ostomy bag leaks the most during physical activity or movement.

Ostomy belts connect to the bag and wrap around the waist to provide a comfortable and secure fit while compensating for the weight of the ostomy bag. This is especially useful for physical activities like yoga, running, walking, or weight lifting. If the patient is relatively active, an ostomy belt may provide the extra protection required to limit the chance of stoma leaks.

  • Make Sure You Help the Patient Empty or Replace the Bag Regularly

As an ostomy bag fills up, it weighs down and presses on the seal surrounding the stoma. This is really one of the leading causes of ostomy leaks. Taking toilet breaks throughout the day is critical to empty or replacing the bag. This reduces the possibility of leakage or blowout owing to an overfilled ostomy pouch.

A decent rule of thumb is to empty the bag when it’s around 1/3 full. By midway, the bag will most likely be heavier and impose additional strain on the ostomy seal. Above all, avoid the danger zone, which occurs when the bag becomes so full that output accumulates around the stoma itself. This greatly increases the possibility of leakage. Furthermore, if it is left ignored or occurs frequently, it can irritate a stoma or potentially cause infection.

Also, if your patient has leaks mostly at night, be sure to empty the pouch before going to bed. You might also take extra precautions, like arranging cushions around you to keep them from turning over onto the bag while sleeping. Wearing a tight shirt or ostomy wrap, on the other hand, will keep a bag snug against their body.

  • Use a Bag With a Filter or Limit Gas-Producing Foods to Prevent Ileostomy and Colostomy Bag Blowouts

One of the most dreaded concerns many ostomates confront is ileostomy and colostomy bag blowouts. This is because gasses from fecal excretion may quickly accumulate and fill a pouch. The weakest area of the bag will be the first to blow open, which is commonly the drain exit towards the bottom of the stoma bag or the barrier and pouch connection.

Let’s start with the sort of pouch that’s being utilized. You should start using a bag with an enhanced charcoal filter, which allows the bag to “burp” throughout the day, lowering the danger of pouch inflation or subsequent blowouts. Because these pouches were built with input from ostomy nurses and ostomates, they have additional security measures, such as an audible click sound when you clip the bag to a barrier.

Also, limiting the patient’s intake of gas-producing foods like broccoli, beans, dairy products, onions, carbonated beverages, sugars, and artificial sweeteners can lessen gas production.

  • Check to See Whether the Ostomy Products Are Expired or Damaged

When ostomy goods are used past their expiration date, their adhesive characteristics, fit, and effectiveness might change. The easiest method to avoid this is to always check the expiration date on the packaging of the ostomy supplies before using them.

Ensure ostomy supplies are stored out of the sun and are never left in the car. You don’t want ostomy supplies to get too hot or too cold. Store them inside and follow any storage recommendations on the box of the ostomy products.

  • Minimize Pancaking in the Colostomy Bag

When thicker ostomy output does not settle to the pouch’s bottom, this is called pancaking. Instead, it may gather towards the top of the bag or around the stoma. This can result in leaks for those who wear colostomy bags or have thick output from an ileostomy.

It can be an irritating issue. However, we can quickly resolve this problem! To begin, cover the interior of a bag with a pouch lubricant such as lubricating deodorant or lubricating drops. This allows stool to sink to the bottom of a bag. If you use an ostomy pouch lubricant, make sure to reapply it every time you empty the bag.

You may encourage the patient to implement a few simple lifestyle modifications to help soften the stool. Encourage them to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Some ostomates choose to soften their colostomy output by consuming an apple, grape, or prune juice.

Ostomy Care in Cincinnati, Ohio

If you’re someone caring for an ostomy patient, it is vital to remember that sometimes accidents happen, but it’s up to you to remain calm and reassuring. By implementing the advice provided in this article, you can help prevent leaks or embarrassing situations.

With the help of a qualified, skilled nurse from Quality Life Services Home Health, you can take it step by step. If you or a loved one requires ostomy care at home, please contact us at (513) 860-1405. 

You may also request additional information by filling out this online form.