An ostomy bag is an umbrella term for the types of bags that collect waste from surgical openings in your intestines or bladder. A colostomy bag is a type of ostomy bag used to collect stool.

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A colostomy is one type of ostomy, or surgical opening, used to divert stool from a damaged area in the large intestine (colon).

There are several choices when it comes to the bags and devices that collect stool from these surgical openings.

This article explores some of the ways stool can be collected and the types of ostomy bags and other collection devices that people can choose from.

The words ostomy and stoma are used interchangeably in medical practice. Stoma is rooted in the Greek word for mouth, so this medical term signifies an opening to a hollow space.

Ostomies (stomas) are used for several types of surgical openings, including openings in the trachea (tracheostomy) as well as the digestive tract. Ostomies are named according to where they are located. For example, a colostomy refers to an opening in the colon (your large intestine).

A surgeon places an ostomy to strategically bypass damaged sections of the intestines or urinary tract. For example:

  • a colostomy diverts solid waste from the large intestine (colon)
  • an ileostomy moves waste directly from the small intestine
  • a urostomy removes waste from the bladder

Ostomy bags, like ostomies, are the same in many ways. They may differ slightly in the location where they are used and the nature of the waste they are designed to collect.

Many versions, styles, and brands of collection devices can be attached to your ostomy. Which one you use depends on the type and size of your stoma, your surgeon’s technique, or even what brands your medical insurance covers.

The bag and collection system you choose is also influenced by the type, texture, and volume of output from your ostomy. For example:

  • Colostomy bags collect the most solid stool since more water is removed from your waste by the time it reaches the colon.
  • Ileostomy bags collect stool from the small intestine, so their water content is higher, and waste might be runnier.
  • Urostomy bags collect only liquid since it collects urine. The bag and collection system you choose may depend on the type, texture, and volume of output from your ostomy.

In terms of style, there are a few other generic categories that ostomy bags can fall into based on how the collection device attaches to your skin and stoma:

One-piece collection devices

A one-piece collection system combines a collection bag and adhesive device in a single unit. Essentially, the bag attaches directly to your skin, making application potentially easier. However, changing the bag also requires a complete change of the adhesive device, which could mean more irritation for sensitive skin.

Two-piece collection devices

A two-piece system uses an attachment device applied to the skin with an adhesive film or paste. The bag is then applied to the device, allowing you to change only the bag and not the entire collection unit.

Two-piece adhesive collection devices

A two-piece adhesive collection device is similar to the two-piece collection device, except the piece that attaches the bag to your skin is applied with a self-adhesive layer. There is no need to apply an additional paste or glue.

Colostomies and ileostomies collect waste from your intestines. An ileostomy is placed in the small intestine, so the output has more water content. A colostomy is placed in the large intestine after most of the water is absorbed back into your body. This creates a more pasty or solid output.

Both procedures are done with similar surgeries, involving an incision on the outside of the abdomen, and the extraction of a portion of your intestine to create the stoma.

Both ostomy types are commonly done to treat:

Ileostomies may be used more often to address congenital or genetic conditions, while colostomies are used more often to manage trauma or injury to the lower digestive tract.

One of the biggest differences between ileostomies and colostomies is that some ileostomies drain to an internal pouch. These are collection areas that are created to either be drained manually through the stoma a few times a day or through the anus, similar to the way natural bowel movements happen.

Your doctor can advise which collection method is best for you based on your health and the issue requiring a colostomy.

Colostomies and ileostomies are both ostomies or stomas. These are openings for your stool to pass through when it has to be diverted from its natural course due to disease or injury.

Which type of ostomy you have will depend on your condition and what part of your intestine will be out of commission.

The decision on what type of collection device or ostomy bag you use is something you will have input on, though. Talk with your doctor and ostomy team about the best for your condition and lifestyle.