What is a Stoma Bag?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2020
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A stoma bag usually refers to a plastic pouch which is connected to the end of an abdominal stoma to allow feces to be caught and stored. They are usually attached to a thin tube which is inserted at the other end into the stoma itself. Bags are made to be leak proof and often feature a tight seal either directly on the skin or in a two piece system. Occasionally a stoma bag is made from a material other than plastic, such as rubber or fabric.

There are two main types of stoma bag. The first type comes in one piece and sticks directly onto the skin with adhesive. The other attaches to a tube or seal which then attaches to the skin. Patients may have their own preferences, but both are effective at preventing leaks and protecting the skin.

Patients may use a separate stoma bag for day or night. Nighttime bags may be connected directly into a larger receptacle which is used to catch waste so that the bag won't need to be changed in the night. During the day, patients can see when their pouch is getting full and know that they will need to replace the bag soon.


To change a stoma bag, the patient must sit or lean over a toilet. There is usually a closure located on the bag which can be opened to allow it to be emptied. It is often best to sit on the toilet with the legs spread wide enough to allow the bag to be emptied. The patient can then lower the bag slowly toward the bowl and allow the contents to drain out slowly. Disinfectant towels, rags, or cleaners may be needed to clean any spills around the bowl's rim.

Some patients may only need a stoma bag temporarily, as there are options for rerouting the intestines so that they can empty the bowels through the anus normally. Others may have to use the bag permanently. There are varieties that stick very close to the skin so that they are discreet underneath the clothes and are lightweight to avoid irritation during movement. Sometimes a patient may be able to flush the digestive tract to avoid wearing a bag at all times.

A doctor or another health care professional may be able to advise patients on which stoma bag brand and size is best for their situation. Some are more expensive than others, but a patient's overall comfort should be considered. Insurance may cover the price of stoma bags and other supplies.



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