You may have questions about your ostomy, how to care for your stoma, and how to keep living the life you want to live – but you don’t have to figure it out on your own. Hollister Secure Start services offer free support for people living with an ostomy, regardless of the brand of products used. Below are five common questions we are asked from people in the ostomy community like you.

I’m having leakage under my pouching system.

To help solve the issue, we would ask several questions including the current pouching system being used, and the frequency of it being changed. Other questions that would assist us in problem solving might be—How are you preparing your skin before putting on your pouch? If the products are not being properly applied, it could cause adherence issues. Are you cleaning out your pouch or do you put anything in it? Most important, where is the leakage occurring? If it’s always in the same area, evaluate the area for any creases or uneven surfaces such as scar tissue, incisions, or your belly button that may cause an uneven surface under the barrier. If this is the cause, you might try a barrier ring as a filler to even out the surface area. However, make sure that the stoma size is correct in the barrier. You’ll know it’s a correct fit when the barrier fits where the skin and the stoma meet. There should be no skin exposed between the stoma and the opening of the barrier.


My skin is irritated and weepy.

This can be a problem for many people with an ostomy. A person should not have skin breakdown, open wounds, or a rash under the barrier. Where exactly is the skin breaking down? How long has it been going on? Is there a situation that may have led to this irritation, such as leakage or was your barrier removed too quickly? What product are you using to prepare your skin for the barrier? Try using stoma powder to absorb moisture from broken skin around the stoma, which may help allow the skin barrier to get better adherence. The cause of the skin irritation needs to be addressed in order to find solutions.


I am noticing an odor and I’m concerned others will too.

There can be an odor associated with emptying your pouch versus odor caused by leakage and we need to determine which one you are experiencing. A lubricating deodorant is a great choice for neutralizing the odor of the stool when the pouch is emptied. You might also consider a pouch that has a filter, which neutralizes odor caused by gas in the pouch. Make sure that no stool drainage gets on the outside of your closure system. If neither of these situations is the issue your barrier might be starting to lift off the skin, which can allow odor to escape and can be the beginning of a leakage.


My pouching system is not staying on. What can I do?

It may be a problem with your barrier seal. Make sure you have one that you can count on. Everybody is different when it comes to wear time. A good rule of thumb is to determine how many days you can rely on the product to provide a secure seal without experiencing leakage. Monitor the back of the barrier when you change the pouching system. If you see stool or urine from the stoma that has leaked under the barrier, it’s a sign that the barrier seal is compromised and the barrier can begin to lose adherence to the skin. If this occurs then the barrier should be changed. It’s important to change your product on a routine basis, which can be determined by the lack of stoma drainage under the barrier as well as the condition of your skin.


It is important that my pouching system is discreet. What can you recommend?

When a pouch fills with gas or drainage it will start to balloon out and might show under clothing. A pouch with a filter can help release the gas. Also consider emptying your pouch when it’s a third to a half full. When a pouch is full it could cause weightiness on the barrier, which might lead to leakage. When it comes to discretion, it’s important that you find the right pouching system for your body. Hollister offers both one- and two-piece systems. For a person with a colostomy or ileostomy, there are drainable and closed-end pouches in various lengths and options of transparent, ultra-clear and beige pouch films. Those with a urostomy can also choose from pouches with transparent, ultra-clear or beige film depending on the product they are using.


As always, it’s important to follow up with your healthcare professional or Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse for clinical or medical advice.


Have a concern that wasn’t mentioned here?

Check out the helpful tips from Hollister Incorporated, Routine Care of Your Ostomy or go to and navigate to the Ostomy Care Resources to find accessory sheets, helpful brochures and videos.


Need someone to talk to?

Hollister Secure Start services is here to help! Call us today at 1.888.808.7456.


Nothing contained herein should be considered medical advice. Medical advice can only be provided by an individual’s personal doctor or medical professional.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

UOAA Supports the Survivors of Colorectal Cancer


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis among men and women combined in the United States. There is currently no cure, but it’s 90 percent treatable if caught early with a screening. American Cancer Society estimates there will be over 140,000 new cases and over 50,000 deaths this year.

Recent research has confirmed what many have long suspected–more young people are dying of colorectal cancer. Ten percent of all new colorectal cancer patients are under the age of 50 and are too often misdiagnosed.

People with other bowel diseases have an increased risk for colorectal cancer. This includes ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, pre-cancerous polyps, and hereditary syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), or Lynch syndrome.

If you need to have lifesaving ostomy surgery because of colorectal cancer or any other reason, education and peer-support is available from the approximately 300 affiliated support groups of United Ostomy Associations of America. Ostomy patients of all ages and their families, friends and caregivers are welcome. Find a meeting near you today. You are not alone.

You can also get involved in our advocacy efforts for colorectal cancer. Congress has introduced a bill Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act (H.R. 1017/S. 479). This act would fix a problem in Medicare that is a major deterrent to senior citizens getting screened. Currently, Medicare covers screening colonoscopies at no cost to the patient, but if polyps are removed during the screening procedure, beneficiaries are hit with unexpected costs.  Ouch!  This bill waives Medicare coinsurance requirements with respect to colorectal cancer screening tests, regardless of the code billed for a resulting diagnosis or procedure. See our action alert for an easy way to contact your lawmakers and show your support for this lifesaving effort.

The bill currently has over 240 bipartisan sponsors.  Help us advocate for final passage of this legislation in 2018! Talk to your doctor to see if you are at risk or due for a colorectal cancer screening.

UOAA is proud to be a member organization of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT). The NCCRT is a collaborative partnership with more than 100 member organizations across the nation, committed to taking action in the screening, prevention, and early detection of colorectal cancer.

Ask your doctor if colostomy irrigation is right for you


By Mary Lou Boyer, BSEd, RN, CWOCN Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Cleveland Clinic


You may have seen or heard the term “irrigation” used in conjunction with ostomy care. There are several different ways this word is used and it can have very different meanings.

Some people with ostomies say that they “irrigate” their pouch or appliance each time they empty. In these cases, it is a matter of adding water to help loosen thick or formed stool to assist in emptying the thick stool from the pouch. Or it can mean rinsing out the pouch with water until the pouch appears clean. In other cases the term “irrigation” is used when referring to a procedure that some people with descending or sigmoid colostomies may use to cleanse or regulate the bowel by instilling water into the large intestine through the stoma. This is called “colostomy irrigation”.

Over the many years that colostomy irrigation has been an option in colostomy care, there has been some debate about whether or not an individual should irrigate. In making that decision the following are questions that should be considered: what is colostomy irrigation? Who is an appropriate candidate? Why is it done? When is it done? And how is it done? This article is an attempt to answer these questions.

Colostomy irrigation is a method of assisting the bowels to move at a certain time. The procedure itself is similar to an enema, however it is done with specialized equipment to instill warm water through the colostomy stoma. A large water bag with tubing that has a cone-shaped tip is inserted into the opening of the stoma. The cone-shaped catheter tip allows the water to flow into the colon while preventing the water from leaking back out. As the colon fills with water, it distends. This distention stimulates colon peristalsis and mass contractions that lead to stool evacuation.

Colostomy irrigation is an option only for people who have a descending or sigmoid colostomy. In the normal bowel, the function of the colon is to absorb water from the waste material and to store it for a normal bowel movement. In most cases this can be as often as once or twice a day, or less frequent, such as every other day. There must be enough of the large intestine to absorb and store. The anal sphincter muscle is used to control the bowel movement until a convenient time. When most of the colon is still in place, the bowel can generally return to the usual pattern the person had prior to surgery. With a colostomy there is no longer a sphincter muscle to hold the stool in until a convenient time to go to the bathroom. Stool will flow into the pouch with no control over the timing. This loss of control that comes along with having a stoma can result in stool flow into the pouch at inconvenient or embarrassing times. Gas can also be an issue.

Colostomy Irrigation is used to empty the colon for any of the following reasons.
• To regulate the bowel
• Clean out the bowel for testing procedures, including colonoscopy
• To stimulate bowel function for constipation or if the colon is very slow to wake up after the colostomy surgery

When colostomy irrigation is used to help stimulate bowel function after intestinal surgery, only a small amount of warm water is instilled. This is done after the normal waiting time for stool flow has passed. Anesthesia, pain medications and inactivity after surgery all contribute to slowing the bowel down and delaying return of normal peristalsis needed to have bowel function. Colostomy irrigation can be used as a possible method for cleansing the bowel in preparation for colonoscopy, laboratory testing, x-rays, barium enema and CT scans, as well as any other testing that requires the bowel to be empty for clear visualization by the physician. Cleaning out the bowel for testing has shifted more toward oral preparations with the advancements of laxative-type bowel cleansing medications. However, irrigation is still an option, especially for those patients with certain health issues or who cannot tolerate oral preparations.

When colostomy irrigation is used to regulate the bowel, the procedure is done daily. If the normal pre-surgery bowel pattern was less frequent than daily, the procedure can be done every other day. It may take a couple of weeks to “train” the bowel to completely empty at the time of irrigation. The desired result is to move all of the stool out with irrigation and have no spillage of stool into the pouch between irrigations. The best results are obtained by doing the procedure at the same time every day in order to ”train” the bowel for evacuating on a regular basis at a convenient time. For some people it is most convenient to perform irrigation in the morning and for others the best time is in the evening when they are not rushing off to work or other daily activities. It is up to the patient’s personal preference.

If the procedure works well, the person with a descending or sigmoid colostomy can count on regular evacuations and the need for a pouch is minimized. The patient who irrigates successfully may wear only a small stoma cap or gauze square over the stoma between irrigations. Some wear a small pouch just for security.

Colostomy irrigation is not always appropriate or even desirable for every person who has a sigmoid or descending colostomy. The person’s age, physical and mental ability to learn and perform the procedure, the disease process, and whether or not the ostomy is temporary or permanent are all factors that need to be considered.

Irrigation is NOT recommended for people with any of the following conditions:
• Stomal prolapse – Irrigating can increase the risk for further prolapse
• Parastomal hernia – Hernias change the contour and angle of the intestine so there is increased risk for bowel perforation and poor evacuation results
• Children or young adults – In younger people, routine irrigation may create bowel dependency. In other words the bowel may not be able to function normally without irrigation if the routine is started at an early age.
• Pelvic or abdominal radiation – Radiation can cause damage to the tissue of the intestine. Anyone with abdominal radiation has an extreme risk of bowel perforation, so it is important not to add any extra pressure to the fragile tissue.
• Diverticulitis – Because the bowel tissue is already compromised from this disease process, there is a much higher risk of bowel perforation.
• Patients with limited manual dexterity • Patients with poor learning ability
• Persons who had poor bowel regularity before surgery will likely have poor results from irrigation
• Extremely ill or terminally ill patients – Routine irrigation is usually not recommended for these patients because of the time and energy required for the procedure

When colostomy irrigation is being considered, it is important to first determine if the individual is a good candidate. In other words, are there are any of the above risk factors? If not, then consider the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure, keeping in mind that the procedure, from start to finish, can take up to 45 minutes or even an hour.

The chief advantage is regaining control over fecal elimination. If irrigation is successful, it can reduce the number of pouches used. It may even be possible to choose not to wear a pouch and only use a small protective covering. Successful management of the colostomy with irrigation may assist in the psychosocial adjustment to the colostomy. Disadvantages include the time required for the procedure and not all patients can achieve complete control with irrigation. If elimination patterns change or become unpredictable, the patient may not be free of bowel movements between irrigations.

Research shows that colostomy irrigation was first used in the 1920s and through the years it was taught routinely to patients with a descending colon or sigmoid colostomy. Among the chief reasons for teaching this routinely was the lack of quality pouches to contain thick or formed stool as they were bulky and did not adhere well to the skin. As pouching systems improved with more advanced technology, Colostomy irrigation as a widely used “routine” procedure lessened and began to be used more for personal preference, or on a need to know basis.

Regulation of the colostomy using irrigation is a personal matter. Life style and occupation often lead in making the choice. The final decision of whether to use this method or not should be made by the patient with proper guidance from health care professionals. Only those patients who meet the established criteria for irrigation should proceed with using this method of bowel management.

Irrigation Procedure: 
1. Gather equipment
2. Fill irrigation container with 1 liter warm water. Run some water through the tubing to remove air
3. Hang container at shoulder height with patient sitting on toilet or chair near toilet.
4. Remove old pouch or covering from stoma
5. Attach irrigation sleeve over stoma
6. Lubricate cone irrigator and gently insert into stoma. Hold cone gently but firmly against stoma to prevent backflow of water.
7. Open clamp and allow water to flow. If cramping occurs, shut off water flow, keeping cone in place until cramp subsides, then continue.
8. After water has been instilled, gently withdraw cone and close top of irrigation sleeve.
9. Allow 15-20 minutes for most of return, dry and clamp bottom of sleeve. Patient may proceed with other activities.
10. Leave sleeve in place for approximately 20 minutes
11. When evacuation is complete, remove sleeve, clean peristomal skin and apply pouch or protective covering.
12. Wash equipment.


Basic Tips for Changing your Ostomy Appliance


By Wendy Lueder


If you feel overwhelmed by changing your appliance, please know that your feelings of anxiety will diminish over time. I know it can be difficult at first but it will become more routine with practice. Knowing just what you’re going to do can be helpful so here are some basic guidelines that you may wish to use.

  1. To start, wash your hands!
  2. Set out your equipment within easy reach on your bathroom countertop. You will need: an old bath towel on the floor and Kleenex tissues (without any lotion!) to catch any unwanted output while changing; plastic bags for clean-up; a washcloth if you don’t shower; clean bath towel; pencil and stoma measuring guide; scissors or x-acto knife if you don’t use the new “moldable” skin barrier wafers; a skin barrier wafer; Stomahesive or HolliHesive paste or product such as Eakin Cohesive Seals (preferred by this writer) a new pouch; a tail closure if you use a drainable pouch that doesn’t have the built-in Velcro closure ; hair dryer and finally, a swivel make-up mirror.
  3. Empty your pouch as normal. DO NOT rinse your pouch out when emptying. This only reduces adhesion. If you get this advice, ignore it. Rinsing out pouches is an obsolete suggestion that is totally bothersome and no longer valid for modern ostomy equipment. Empty your pouch while sitting comfortably and normally on the toilet. Put some toilet paper in the bowl first to avoid any splashing. If you use a tail clip, carry an extra one with you in case you accidentally flush yours down the toilet
  4. While holding a corner of the tape that holds your appliance to your body, gently push your skin in toward your body to remove the appliance. Pushing your skin inward is far less harsh on it than if you pull the appliance off and away. Try it and feel the difference. You only need to use an adhesive remover if: A) you have worn the skin barrier wafer a very short time and the adhesion is still very strong and/or B) your skin is irritated or tender and can be easily damaged. I personally prefer the spray adhesive removers as they leave less residue. However, I only use them if I have worn the barrier for less than two days between changes.
  5. Put the old pouch, wafer and other waste (not the tail clip!) into a plastic bag for disposal. Sealable sandwich bags work great. My favorite product is Ostaway x-bag which is a black, opaque, leak-proof, odor-proof zip-lock bag made just for this purpose. See or call 1-800-774-6097 (Mon-Fri 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern).
  6. Clean the skin around the stoma with a washcloth and warm water or by getting into the shower and using your hands. Be gentle. Do not use scented or cream soaps as they will diminish adhesion of your skin barrier. Any waste coming out of the stoma will merely wash down the drain.
  7. Pat your skin dry with Kleenex and for best results use a hair-dryer on low setting to complete the job. The cleaner and dryer your skin is the better your skin barrier will adhere.

Measure your stoma with a measuring guide (usually supplied in the box with your skin barrier wafers) using the make-up mirror placed on the countertop to get a better look. This is especially important if your surgery is recent as your stoma will become smaller over a period of months.

For all Skin Barriers except StomaHesive Wafers measure right up next to the stoma. For StomaHesive Wafers add an eighth of an inch space between the stoma and the wafer hole. Only this brand of wafer is “stiff” and could damage your stoma if it is too close. All other types of skin barrier wafers are more flexible and won’t damage the stoma if placed right up next to it. If your stoma is oval take two measurements, one each of the larger and smaller diameters.

  1. Trace the correct size and shape onto the back of the wafer with the starter hole in the middle. Cut out the hole either with your scissors or more easily by using an x-acto knife.

There are new moldable skin barrier wafers that you do not need to cut but merely manipulate to create the correct size opening. This is especially helpful if your stoma is oval and is highly recommended by this writer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to create the perfect size opening for your unique stoma.

  1. If you use paste, peel the paper from the wafer and apply the paste only by the width of the tubes opening around the cut circle in the wafer. Allow alcohol to evaporate for approximately thirty seconds. Unfortunately paste is poorly named. Paste is really merely caulking and has no adhesive property.

If greater protection is needed than paste can afford (such as for ileostomates who have a caustic output), try using an Eakin Cohesive Seal or similar product instead of paste. these seals have the consistency of silly putty, and lasts far longer and will not wash away from heavy output.

Small dabs of paste or small pieces of Eakin Seals are great to fill any dimples in your skin that you may have. The flatter the surface of your skin around the stoma, the better the seal. Do fill in those dimples if you have them.

  1. While leaning slightly backwards to smooth out your skin, remove paper backing from the skin barrier and apply it slowly and carefully over the stoma. Use the magnifying side of your mirror to see that you are correctly setting it in place. Remove the paper backing from the surrounding tape and smooth it out on your skin being careful not to create any wrinkles as they may latter dig into your skin.
  2. If you use a two-piece system, snap the new pouch onto the wafer. Never tug down on the appliance to see if it is secure. Instead, feel with your finger all around the “Tupperware” closure to make sure the pouch and wafer are as close to each other as can be. If you detect any space, push the pouch toward your body until you feel it close the gap. You may hear a series of clicks as you apply the pouch.
  3. If you use a tail clip, apply now. Hold your appliance in place with your hand for a full five minutes to ensure a secure seal. All skin adhesives are more effective if held in place after first application as the heat from your hand improves adhesion. If your stoma is flush to your skin, use a skin barrier wafer with built-in convexity. The convexity will gently push the skin toward your body around the stoma giving it some extra length. When the stoma thus protrudes a bit more, its output goes more easily into the pouch. The new adhesives and skin barrier wafers stay put well for days.

Some bleeding is normal when touching your stoma, but report any unusual color, size, shape, or bleeding to your Ostomy nurse. Try different products. Call your Ostomy nurse or ostomy supply companies and ask for free samples. You may have to shop around to find products that leave you feeling comfortable and secure. You should be no more aware of your appliance than you are of your underwear. Always follow any special instructions provided by your health care professional as they know your specific situation better than any general guidelines an article such as this could provide

If your abdomen is very hairy, you may want to gently shave off the hair under your skin barrier wafer. Be careful not to cut or damage your skin.

These suggestions are gleaned from years of helping ostomates cope and are just that, suggestions. They come from over thirty-five years of experience, but are in fact just the input from a layperson. I’m not a nurse, I’m an ostomate. Your healthcare professionals always know best and you need to follow their advice, not mine.
Bottom line: Your appliance should be comfortable, stay on for at least a few days between changes, odor-free (not odor resistant) and leak extremely rarely. If not, go see an ostomy nurse and change your routine until you find the products that work well for you. Best of all, studies done at Duke University verify that the longer you’ve been an ostomate, the better it gets. Problems do diminish with time and experience. You should be able to forget you’re an ostomate and get on with doing the things you really enjoy. There’s no stopping you.

Additional Tips for ileostomates only:

Try changing first thing in the morning when output is at its slowest. Many ileostomates report that eating four to five marshmallows right before changing stops all output from the stoma for several minutes. I personally have found this to be true. As marshmallows are pure sugar, please don’t try this if you’re a diabetic.
As the output for ileostomies is far more caustic than for colostomates and urostomates, don’t put off changing your appliance when needed. There are two indications you need to change, one is “itching” and the other is a “burning” sensation. If you itch, it may be merely dehydration. Drink a glass of water. If the itching continues, you need to change. If you feel a burning sensation on the skin around the stoma, change as soon as possible. The output from your ileostomy is caustic and will damage your skin. Avoid the vicious cycle of damaged skin -> poor adhesion due to damaged skin -> leakage -> damaged skin.


Colorectal Cancer: Be informed if you are a candidate for an ostomy reversal 


By Joanna Burgess-Stocks, BSN, RN, CWOCN


  • Not everyone who has an ostomy as a result of colorectal cancer and other diseases will have the option of having their ostomy reversed.  Some people will need to keep their ostomy for life.


  • Your surgeon will determine when an ostomy will be reversed. There are many factors that determine a reversal such as the extent of the disease, a patient’s overall health and treatment process (radiation and chemotherapy).  Most patients with temporary ostomies will have the ostomy for about 3-6 months.


  • Surgery for reversal of an ostomy is usually much less involved than the surgery that you had to create the ostomy. So if you are feeling nervous, keep that in mind. A typical hospital course is 3-4 days on average.


  • For some patients, interrupting bowel function with a temporary ileostomy increases the chances that you will experience alterations in bowel function after reversal of your stoma. These symptoms can include rectal urgency, frequency, fragmentation of stool and incontinence. It is important that you notify your surgeon as soon as possible with these symptoms. Treatment includes behavioral strategies based on the symptoms and includes dietary modifications, incontinence products, skin care (use of barrier creams such as zinc oxide) and medications such as loperamide. More involved but helpful recommendations are pelvic muscle retraining (PMR) to regain sphincter strength and biofeedback. This therapy is done by a highly trained physical therapist.


  • Some physical therapists recommend PMR prior to surgery or radiation to assess muscles and teach strategies for ongoing muscle strengthening that can be carried over after surgery. This helps to address any coordination or existing weakness prior to radiation due to chemo or post-operative recovery. If PMR is recommended after surgery, it is best to wait at least 6 weeks and with the surgeon’s approval.