Urostomy and colostomy bags are used in two different types of ostomies. Also called stomas, these are surgical openings meant to create alternatives for waste to leave your body.

A urostomy bag is used to collect urine after a urostomy procedure. A colostomy bag, on the other hand, collects stool and is connected during a colostomy surgery.

Learn more about the differences between these two critical, potentially lifesaving procedures, as well as important considerations you may wish to discuss further with a doctor.

A urostomy is done to redirect urine in cases of bladder disease, dysfunction, or injury. A hole is made in your abdomen during this surgery, and a urostomy bag is attached to collect urine.

Possible reasons for a urostomy include:

A colostomy bag is attached to the outside of your body to help collect stool via an abdominal opening. During the colostomy itself, a doctor redirects one end of your colon through the opening created during surgery.

You may need a colostomy in cases where the colon cannot function as it should. Reasons include:

A colostomy may be temporary or permanent, depending on the underlying disease affecting your colon.

While cancers may sometimes result in a permanent colostomy, other reasons for a colostomy may have you only needing a stoma and bag for about 3–6 months.

In the case of either a urostomy or colostomy, the benefits outweigh the risks. However, it’s important to discuss possible complications with a doctor ahead of time so you know when you need to seek medical help.

Both a urostomy and colostomy may cause skin irritation or hernias. Other problems may arise with the stoma itself, such as a leakage, retraction, or prolapse. Such complications could require additional surgery to correct the stoma.

Urostomy risks

Other possible risks to consider with a urostomy include:

Colostomy risks

Additionally, possible risks associated with a colostomy include:

  • urges to pass stool through your anus
  • anal discharge
  • bloody discharge
  • infections or tissue damage
  • nausea, bloating, or cramps, which could indicate a blockage in the stoma

Having either type of stoma doesn’t restrict you from working, traveling, or having sex. However, you may need to make some adjustments and allow yourself more time for bathroom breaks, as well as opportunities to clean your skin and stoma.

Both types of bags may be discreetly worn under clothing. You can also ask a doctor about special underwear or swimsuits that can help accommodate your urostomy or colostomy bag.

For a urostomy

Depending on the type of urostomy bag you have, you will need to change it out every 2–3 days. You’ll also want to be sure you empty the bag whenever it’s half full to help prevent bacterial growth or damage to the bag’s seal.

A doctor may recommend that you limit your liquid intake at night to prevent having to wake up frequently to empty your urostomy bag.

If you have recently had bladder removal surgery, you may also experience looser stools after your urostomy. These are temporary and are the result of the surgeon shortening your bowel as part of the urinary diversion.

Also, while you can still work and pursue most of your hobbies after a urostomy, you may need to refrain from heavy manual work. This includes construction or heavy digging. A doctor can help you determine whether you need to make adjustments in such cases.

For a colostomy

While you may have urges to pass stool, your colostomy bag automatically stores stool for you without needing to use the toilet. Depending on the type of bag you have, you may need to replace it several times a day or after a couple of days.

You may also need to temporarily adjust your diet following a colostomy. This includes following a low fiber diet for the first few weeks to help reduce the risk of a stoma blockage from large stools.

Can a urostomy be reversed?

A urostomy is a permanent surgery. Once you have undergone this procedure, it cannot be reversed and you will need to wear a urostomy bag.

Can a colostomy be reversed?

Unlike a urostomy, a colostomy may either be temporary or permanent. Only a temporary colostomy can be reversed.

This is only done if your colon is completely recovered and takes place at least 3 months after your initial colostomy.

Both urostomy and colostomy bags are necessary components for their respective surgeries to help collect waste from your body. While a urostomy bag collects urine, a colostomy bag collects stool.

Consider talking with a healthcare professional about the benefits versus risks associated with each procedure. Urostomies and colostomies can not only be lifesaving, but each surgery may also help improve your overall quality of life.