Colostomy: A Guide

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Changing the colostomy pouching system

You’ll be taught how to change your pouching system before you leave the hospital. Different pouch systems are made to last different lengths of time. Some are changed every day, some every 3 days or so, and some just once a week. Some pouches can be cleaned and reused. It depends on type of pouch you use.

Over time you may find that there’s less bowel activity at certain times of the day. It’s easiest to change the pouching system during these times. In many cases, early morning before you eat or drink is best.

The section called “Caring for a colostomy” has more information on pouching systems and keeping them in place.


You don’t have to use sterile supplies. For instance, facial tissue, toilet paper, or paper towels can be used to clean around the stoma instead of sterile gauze pads.

Factors that affect the pouching system seal

The pouching system must stick to your skin. It’s important to change it before it loosens or leaks. The length of time a pouch will stay sealed to the skin depends on many things, such as the weather, skin condition, scars, weight changes, diet, activity, body shape near the stoma, and the nature of the colostomy output. Here are some other things that may affect how long a pouch sticks:

  • Sweating will shorten the number of days you can wear the pouching system. Body heat, added to outside temperature, will cause skin barriers to loosen more quickly than usual.
  • Moist, oily skin may reduce wearing time.
  • Weight changes will affect how long you can wear a pouch. Weight gained or lost after colostomy surgery can change the shape of your abdomen. You may need an entirely different system.
  • Diet may affect your seal. Foods that cause watery output are more likely to break a seal than a thicker discharge.
  • Physical activities may affect wearing time. Swimming, very strenuous sports, or anything that makes you sweat may shorten wear time.

Last Medical Review: 12/02/2014
Last Revised: 12/02/2014