What Is Ostomy Output?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
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Ostomy output is the solid waste eliminated through an ostomy site. It is a more watery form of fecal matter. The output is collected in a colostomy bag and disposed through emptying the bag into a toilet or replacing the bag. Using ostomy irrigation, patients can control the time of their ostomy output.

A colostomy is a procedure that reroutes a patient's large intestine so that waste is eliminated not through the anus, but through an artificial opening created in the abdomen. This procedure is necessary when a patient suffers from diseases or cancers that affect the color or anus. A patient may lose many feet or meters of large intestine as a result. This loss can greatly affect ostomy output.

Even if a patient's ostomy is temporary, the ostomy site bypasses many feet of colon where water is normally reabsorbed. Therefore, ostomy output is a more watery consistency than normal fecal matter. This fact makes it necessary for patients to drink more water as to not become dehydrated.

Patients who have just undergone a colostomy must use a colostomy bag to collect ostomy output. The gasket of a colostomy bag goes over a patient's stoma, a short length of large intestine protruding from the abdomen. Unlike normal solid waste elimination through the anus, there are no voluntary muscles that a patient can control; a patient cannot decide when waste leaves the body.


Once ostomy output has filled an ostomy bag, a patient has two options for disposal. The first is to drain the bag into a toilet using a long plastic sleeve; this sleeve prevents spilling outside the toilet bowl. The second is to replace the bag, a procedure that a patient must do regularly. In this case, a patient places the colostomy bag into a second container to reduce odor during disposal.

For patients who wish to retain control over their bodily functions, learning ostomy irrigation may allow them to stop relying on a colostomy bag. After evaluation by a physician, a nurse teaches the procedure to a patient. Irrigation involves flushing out the large intestine with warm water. The water mixes with the ostomy output, allowing it to leave the body at once rather than throughout the day. Patients learning this technique may require a few days to a week before their bodies become accustomed to ostomy irrigation; for the following few weeks, patients may still require a colostomy bag to prevent any accidental leaking.



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