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Changing your ostomy pouch

Ostomy - pouch change; Colostomy - pouch change

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Your ostomy pouch is a heavy-duty plastic bag that you wear outside your body to collect your stool. Using an ostomy pouch is the best way to handle bowel movements after certain kinds of surgery on the colon or small intestine.

You'll need to learn how to change your ostomy pouch. Follow any specific instructions your health care provider or nurse gives you on changing the pouch. Use the information below as a reminder of what to do.

Your Ostomy Pouch

Your stool may be liquid or solid, depending on the kind of surgery you had. You may need your ostomy for just a short time. Or, you may need it for the rest of your life.

The ostomy pouch attaches to your belly, away from your belt line. It will be hidden under your clothing. The stoma is the opening in your skin where the pouch attaches.

Usually you can do your normal activities, but you will have to change your diet a bit and watch for skin soreness. The pouches are odor-free, and they do not allow gas or stool to leak out when they are worn correctly.

Your nurse will teach you how to care for your ostomy pouch and how to change it. You will need to empty it when it is about 1/3 full, and change it about every 2 to 4 days, or as often as your nurse tells you. After some practice, changing your pouch will get easier.

Getting Your Supplies Ready

Collect your supplies before you start. You will need:

Many medical supply stores will deliver right to your home. Your nurse will get you started with the supplies you will need. After that, you will order your own supplies.

Changing Your Ostomy Pouch

The bathroom is a good place to change your pouch. Empty your used pouch into the toilet first, if it needs emptying.

Gather your supplies. If you have a 2-piece pouch, be sure you have the special ring seal that sticks to your skin around the stoma.

Follow these steps to prevent infection:

Remove the pouch:

Check and seal your skin:

Measure your stoma:

Attach the pouch:

When to Call the Doctor

Contact your provider if:

Related Information

Ulcerative colitis
Colorectal cancer
Intestinal obstruction repair
Large bowel resection
Intestinal or bowel obstruction - discharge
Large bowel resection - discharge
Full liquid diet


American College of Surgeons website. Ostomy home skills program. Accessed December 27, 2022.

Raza A, Araghizadeh F. Ileostomies, colostomies, pouches, and anastomoses. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 117.

Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M. Bowel elimination. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. New York, NY: Pearson; 2016:chap 23.


Review Date: 10/1/2022  

Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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