How Often Can You Reuse a Colostomy Bag?

Updated on April 6, 2018
AloBeDa profile image

I wasted so much money using disposable colostomy bags until a fellow ostomate told me how I was literally flushing money down the toilet!

Now that you may have come to terms with the fact that you have a stoma (you've just had a colostomy), you know it requires routine care and proper management. Now is a good time to think about the colostomy bags (pouches) you'll have to use and know which ones will work best for you.

I know that in the first few weeks post-surgery, you may not be sure, understandably so. And of course, there is still much you are worried about. You are still trying to come to terms with your condition, still wondering how you'll cope!

But cope you will, trust me. Once you get into the routine of things, it will 'become a breeze' to manage your stoma.

Now, let's assume you've passed that phase. What you really want to know now is which type of colostomy bag will work best for you.

The great news is that you have a variety of choices.

Drainable Colostomy Bags
Drainable Colostomy Bags

Traditional Ostomy Pouches

Before I proceed let me quickly mention that gone are the days when having to deal with ostomy issues was horrendous. It was not only unpleasant, it was also an extremely untidy process. Today, we are very lucky. Managing a colostomy has become a seamless, tidy, and easy-to-do task that shouldn't take more than three minutes of your time.

Traditional bags were not only crude, they were bulky, cumbersome-to-use and indiscreet. And they were the ONLY types available for ostomates,

However, today, technology has made life so much better for the modern colostomy patient with choices ranging from transparent and nude, to prettily patterned and highly discreet appliances. They are now neat, functional, and compact with attractive features crafted into pleasant easy-to-use forms.

And, colostomy supplies can now be shipped discreetly in unmarked packages.

Reasons Why I Prefer Colostomy Bags You Can Empty

Basically, pouches come as drainable or closed pouches. You will always have cause to use them both. However, you'll find you prefer one type over the other. I did and here are the reasons why.

  1. Drainable reusable bags are great when it comes to efficiency and savings. Many ostomates prefer these and don't have any problem with having to occasionally empty their own waste.
  2. While some colostomy patients will rather change the whole bag when it's halfway or three-quarters full, many feel it is way too expensive to do that and rather, will opt for bags they can drain.
  3. It takes only a couple of minutes to unfold the folded flap, empty the bag's content, and fold back up securely. All you need do is squeeze waste out gently through this spout into the toilet bowl.
  4. Reusable colostomy bags are modern and so convenient to use because there is no mess, no hassle, no stress, and no time-wasting.
  5. Emptying the bags is so easy, much easier than changing and disposing of the closed pouch. The emptying spout at the base of the bag is so neat!
  6. Drainable pouches are very convenient to use as long as a toilet is close by. It'll just be like another visit to the rest room where you are expelling waste sitting down. The only difference is you sit facing the toilet’s back tank . . . the opposite way. I found it much easier to empty my bags that way.
  7. And you'll be saving a lot of money on toilet paper and may find you'll hardly as much as you normally do.

How Often Can You Reuse a Colostomy Pouch?

This always varies among colostomy patients. While some will not reuse a bag more than two or three times before disposing of it, others have been know to use an Ostomy bag for several days before changing to a new one.

So, what’s best to do?

In the first instance, changing reusable colostomy bags very often can be expensive but then, some may get much discomfort with having the same one on for a length of time and require a change in, at most, after 48 hours.

Why is this so?

Because many patients experience burning, or itching, or both around the stoma after a couple of days. These are signs of a leak in which case, the whole appliance must be changed.

The stoma is sensitive and can easily become infected if it’s not cleaned (around its perimeter) as often as possible.

Additionally, if you have a one piece colostomy bag (attached to a wafer plate) unit, you may need to change it based on how often your bowels move.

Do not wear your reusable colostomy bag for more than 3 days. You may go with it on for a maximum of 4 days if you are a light eater and your bowel movements does not exceed once a day.

Do not make a habit of wearing your appliance for a week as some do. Not only does the wafer become effective in sticking to the abdomen, the colostomy pouch ends up looking like it’s gone through some serious wear and tear, and you’ll be highly susceptible to an infection in the stoma area.

Features of the Drainable/Reusable Ostomy Bags

The one-piece drainable colostomy bag with its hideaway outlet is a popular choice among many ostomates because of its modern construction which includes an integrated outlet /closing system.

My favourite, Coloplast 'Assura', made by Coloplast is great because it is an all-in-one that doesn't require clamps or foam ties. If you are an open bag user, you'll find that this will work great for you. I loved it 'to bits'.

This modern appliance which has an "integrated filter specially developed for ileostomies (less blocking and pancaking) is great for colostomy patients too and is the type I used 90% of the time.

Features and advantages of the integrated filter include:

  • Reducing incidents of pancaking
  • White filter covers that prevent gas from escaping - meaning there are absolutely no odour leaks
  • Reducing the risk of waste leakage
  • Velcro 'ears' that clasp securely over a velour plate
  • Upper and lower foam plates for added protection
  • A system which demands you fold it 3 times over before a final closure
  • 3 different sizes available - mini, midi, and maxi (the minis are quite cute)
  • Anatomical design features with the maxi and midi having an asymmetrical shape which enhances user's comfort.
  • 3 versions available - soft cover, transparent, and patterned.
  • Cosmetic closure - the closed outlet can be discreetly tucked away under a soft fronting (pocket) on the colostomy bag.

Additionally, the pack of pouches always come supplied with dry wipes and disposable bags at no extra cost.

7 Handy Tips for New Colostomy Patients

  1. Never wait for your bag to fill up completely before emptying it
  2. It's best to empty it when it is half full; three-quarters full at the most
  3. Ensure the bag is emptied when it should be because if you don't, it will not only make it heavy, it will also put a strain your stoma
  4. A full colostomy bag will hang heavily and look bulky through your clothes.
  5. If it's too full, it will leak around the edges (loose stool) and gradually through the face-plate (not-so-soft stool) and cause caking
  6. No! faeces will not back up into your stoma opening. You'll, however, risk a 'bag blowout'
  7. With drainable colostomy bags, it is recommended that you empty the contents before you remove the whole appliance from your abdomen.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Alobeda

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