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Choosing an Ostomy Bag

By December 14, 2015 2430 Views 1 comment

Medically Edited and Reviewed by Dr. Erin Zinkhan MD, BSBE

Updated: 07/14/2019

A colostomy is a surgically created opening into the colon that is brought up to the surface of the abdomen. A colostomy allows waste to bypass the lower part of the colon, which is usually diseased or damaged and is the reason for the colostomy surgery. An ileostomy is a surgically created opening into the last part of the small intestine that is brought up to the surface of the abdominal wall. An ileostomy allows liquid and soft stool to bypass the lower intestines. A urostomy is a surgically created opening to the surface of the abdomen from the bladder, which stores urine, or the ureters, which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. After bladder surgery, urostomies allow urine to flow out of the body.

This article will examine the criteria used for selecting an ostomy product to meet the most common needs of patients with these various ostomies. When you narrow down the options to the few best choices for you, check out the FREE Ostomy Bag Samples available from several different manufacturers at the bottom of this article to test the products that best meet your needs!

Selecting the right ostomy bag is not always quick and easy. New innovations and technology have provided many new options that can be confusing to patients. Choosing the right ostomy bag will depend on several different factors. Some of these factors include the type of ostomy and the patient's desired lifestyle, daily activities, personal preferences, skin condition, and budget. Below are some quick links to sections of this article that may be of immediate interest to you.

Types of Ostomy Bags

Manufacturers design ostomy bags specifically for a type of ostomy. Colostomy bags work with a colostomy while ileostomy bags work for an ileostomy. A colostomy bag is designed to collect fecal waste. This collection device is easy to drain and irrigate for reuse. An ileostomy bag collects partially digested food and digestive enzymes. Urostomy bags collect urine. Some ostomy bags come with flat skin barriers, convex wafers, or moldable skin barriers for special fitting requirements. There are multi-chambered ostomy bags and mini pouches that are more discreet and useful for sports and active lifestyles. Filtered ostomy bags are handy for bathing or swimming. Ostomy bags equipped with belt tabs allow for attaching the bag to an ostomy belt to help support the weight of the pouch. Numerous options are available to help meet your specific needs.

One Piece, vs. Two-Piece Ostomy Bags

There are several differences between a one-piece ostomy bag and a two-piece ostomy bag. The infographic below displays some of the critical differences in these two types of ostomy bags. To determine which bag is best for you, take a few moments to compare these two different types of ostomy bags.

ostomy bag comparison

One-Piece Ostomy Bags

A one-piece ostomy bag provides a more discreet profile than a two-piece bag. One-piece ostomy bags are often nearly invisible beneath clothing. For people who wear form-fitting clothes or who participate in sports, a one-piece ostomy bag might be the ideal choice. In a one-piece system, the flange cannot separate from the ostomy bag, resulting in a more secure user experience. However, a one-piece ostomy bag requires that both the ostomy wafer and bag combination be changed at every bag change. Frequent changes of ostomy appliances have the potential to cause skin irritation for some users. Furthermore, when you change the bag on a one-piece system, everything must be well-positioned around the stoma to prevent leaks. This positioning can be somewhat time-consuming. With a one-piece unit, you are likely to use more skin barrier pastes, tapes, and adhesive removers than you would with a two-piece ostomy bag. The frequent use and exchange of these materials can add additional expenses to your budget. The ActiveLife One-Piece Drainable Cut-to-Fit Pouch with Stomadhesive Skin Barrier is an excellent example of a one-piece ostomy system.

Two-Piece Ostomy Bags

There are several advantages to investing in a two-piece ostomy system. With a two-piece ostomy bag, the skin barrier, often referred to as a flange or wafer, can remain in place for two to four days. Less frequent skin barrier changes are gentler on the skin. Frequent replacement required by the one-piece system is often too much for sensitive skin. With a two-piece system, you can easily change the size of the bag you are using without removing the skin barrier. You can conveniently switch to a smaller bag for intimate moments or for swimming and effortlessly slip on a regular-sized bag for everyday activities. At night, a larger bag for an extended collection period may be necessary. Ostomy bag changes with a two-piece system are much quicker and easier than with a one-piece system. This system is more adaptable to the needs of people who lead an active and engaging lifestyle. Some of the disadvantages of using a two-piece system are that they are bulkier in size, more prone to leaking, and slightly more expensive than one-piece systems. Although two-piece systems may appear more expensive, they may actually be less costly in the long run. When factoring the additional costs of tape, adhesive removers, and barrier pastes required for skin care and stoma sealing that are common with the one-piece ostomy bag, the cost difference may be negligible. An example of a standard two-piece ostomy bag is the Click MIDI Opaque Drainable Pouch.

Choose the ostomy bag that not only feels comfortable with but also adapts well to your everyday lifestyle. Many people find that it is convenient to have both types of ostomy bags on hand to suit different types of situations and activities. This strategy offers the most flexibility and adaptability.

Ostomy Bag




ease of use
less bulky
lower profile
less obtrusive
easier to secure
quicker application
more adaptable to uneven skin
less accommodating to special needs
frequent changing = sore skin
greater frequency of stoma positioning


more skin friendly
better accommodations for special needs
subject to leaks
flange difficult to keep clean
more rigid and unflexible

Drainable or Closed-end Pouches

Drainable pouches are available in both one-piece and two-piece systems. A drainable bag allows users to empty the contents and then reuse the pouch. Typically, for people with ileostomies or with colostomies whose stool is liquid or semi-solid, drainable pouches are a great choice. This is because drainable pouches require fewer ostomy bag changes than closed-end bags. They are more easily emptied and ideal for people with liquid or semi-solid waste output. Closed-end Pouches, which are also available in one-piece or two-piece systems, are not reusable. Closed-end pouches are thrown away once the pouch is full. Closed-end ostomy bags are ideal for formed, solid waste output. Many manufacturers make flushable pouch liners, which are suitable for people who lead a busy lifestyle and who do not have time to empty and clean a pouch. Sealed designs are standard for colostomy bag users. A colostomy bag attaches to an ostomy at either the upper or the lower end of the colon. Depending on the location, the consistency of the output will be different; the more processing of digested food that occurs in the colon, the more firm the stool output is. Typically, solid waste is easier to collect in a closed ostomy bag. A closed ostomy bag means there is no need to clean the colostomy bag, and it can simply be detached and thrown away.

Ostomy Bag




extends wear time
less changing required
easy removal of heavy liquids
fewer bag expenditures
easy to empty bag for disposal
best for colostomy or ileostomy

difficulty draining with thicker consistencies
time consuming and painstaking flange cleaning
fastening bags are often uncomfortable


flushable options for easy disposal
accommodates active lifestyles
best for colostomy
supports swimming, exercise, intimacy
replacement bag must always be on-hand
not practical for high liquid output
more difficult disposal when in public
difficulties when draining bag
requires replacing 1 to 3 times daily
not recommended for urostomy

Pre-Cut or Cut-to-Fit Ostomy Bags

Fitting the skin barrier snugly around the stoma minimizes leaks and the risk of irritating the surrounding skin. The more secure the ostomy pouch, the lower the risk of leaks, and the lower the risk of skin irritation. A pre-sized barrier is an opening in the flange that is already cut to the size of the stoma. Printed on each ostomy pre-cut pouch is the stoma size intended to easily match-up with the correct size barrier. For stomas with an evenly round shape, a Pre-cut Ostomy Bag is a great choice. A cut-to-fit version is ideal if the stoma is changing sizes or if the shape of the stoma is not round. A cut-to-fit barrier requires using scissors to cut the skin barrier before it is applied to the body. Some cut-to-fit ostomy bags have a small starter hole in the center of the skin barrier where scissors can be placed to start cutting the right ostomy size for you. Below is a chart displaying the key advantages and disadvantages of Pre-Cut vs. Cut-to-fit Ostomy Bags.

Ostomy Bag




easier to apply
fewer time requirements

may not fit adequately
less adaptable to odd stoma sizes/shapes


adaptable to patient needs
increased flexibility

more cumbersome application
more time consuming

Opaque or Transparent Ostomy Bags

Opaque ostomy bags are more discreet than transparent bags. Usually, opaque ostomy bags are beige in color to more closely match skin color. The purpose of opaque bags is to conceal the contents of the pouch. A transparent ostomy pouch allows you to see into the bag to inspect its contents and fill level. Clear bags are caregiver friendly and simple to check. Patients that spend a lot of time in wheelchairs or hospital beds and depend upon caregiver assistance typically favor this type of ostomy bag. Below is a brief comparison chart of these two types of ostomy bags.

Ostomy Bag




helpful for caregivers
less patient intrusion
easier to check
less discreet


discreet difficult to check

Flat or Convex Ostomy Bags

The majority of ostomy pouch flanges are flat, but many ostomy patients prefer or require a curved flange. Flat Ostomy Bags have a flat adhesive backing, allowing the bag to be in a fixed position with little protrusion. Flat appliances are more discreet. Convex Ostomy Bags have a back which protrudes out giving the flange a stepped side-profile appearance. Convex ostomy bags are available in both two-pieces and one-piece products.

Convex bags come in fixed and non-fixed options. The design of a fixed curved pouch is a stair-step molding shape which provides additional strength to the interface between the ostomy bag and the flange. Fixed arched flanges are less flexible than traditional flat seals. The non-fixed range of convexity products are usually based around plastic rings which clip into existing traditional flat/non-convex products to give them a shallow convex step. Non-fixed, contoured products are considered to be more gentle, softer, and more flexible, allowing more flex with your body.

There are also three different levels of curvature for convex bags - shallow, moderate, and deep. The combination of these options gives patients with ostomies more choices and flexibility for which a beveled product would be best. Convex pouches offer added security and skin protection for recessed, retracted and flush stomas. Below is a chart comparing the advantages of curved and flat ostomy bags.

Ostomy Bag




accommodates flush stoma
integrates with a retracted stoma
accommodates less than 1/2 inch protruding stoma
adapts to skin wrinkles
accommodates creases
adapts to surgical scars
accommodates telescoping stoma
pre-cut or moldable options
longer-lasting seal

increased profile
less discreet
more expensive


fits stomas that protrude more than 1/2 inch

requires a protruding stoma of at least 1/2 inch

Filtered Ostomy Bags

Ostomy bags with filters allow the bag to vent while filtering the gas to remove any odor. Gas and odor are often associated with ostomies. An ostomy filter is usually made of charcoal with microscopic holes and membranes. Ostomy bags that incorporate an integrated filter allow patients to bathe, swim, or participate in athletics with a much lower risk of ostomy leaks. Performance of these filters varies from manufacturer to manufacturer so you may want to try several different manufacturers to see which one works best for you.

Ostomy Bag



Filtered Ostomy Bag

reduces or removes odors
provides for bathing
supports swimming
supports water sports

increased expense

Multi-Chambered Ostomy Bags

Multi-chambered ostomy bags reduce the amount of sloshing within the pouch to reduce noise and allow for more discreet wear. These chambered ostomy pouches are a favorite for ostomy patients that are very active and participate in sports and athletic events.

Ostomy Bag




decreases sloshing
less noise
higher expense

Mini Ostomy Bags

Mini ostomy bags have a limited capacity but are more discreet. Their smaller size is less detectable and more comfortable to wear. Smaller also means less weight but also less volume.

Ostomy Bag




smaller size
less intrusive
more discreet
supports active lifestyles
less capacity

Moldable Ostomy Bags

Ostomy bags with moldable flanges are an innovation of Convatec. A moldable skin barrier not only allows a snug fit around an irregularly shaped stoma but also helps reduce the risk of leaks. Below is a video from Convatec that demonstrates the advantages of a moldable ostomy appliance. Following the video is a chart that summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of a moldable ostomy pouch.

ConvaTec Moldable Ostomy Video (2:00 minutes)

Ostomy Bag




accommodates any stoma size/shape
personalized fit
mo cutting with scissors

higher cost

Ostomy Belts

An ostomy belt is designed to support the weight of the pouch and to fix ostomy appliances in place. Ostomy belts also help to conceal the ostomy appliance and protect it from being jarred loose from incidental contact with the world around you. Ostomy belts keep your pouch in place to prevent leaks.

Ostomy Appliances



Ostomy Belts

supports the weight of the bag
supports the waste weight
helps keep ostomy pouches in place
conceals ostomy appliance

belt may dislodge
possible pinching
possible ulceration

Vitality Medical provides a list of manufacturers that offer specific ostomy bag options that may be of importance to you. This Ostomy Bag Options List displays alternatives like multi-chambered ostomy bags, filtered ostomy bags, and moldable skin barrier bags next to the manufacturers that make them. The Best Ostomy Bags listed by highest sales volume can also be examined. For new patients with ostomies, it can be a challenge to find an ostomy appliance that has the unique feature that you are looking for. Below is a chart of special ostomy features matched to manufactures and brands to help you begin your search.

Ostomy Bag Options Matched To Brands

Ostomy Product

Multi-Chambered Bag Coloplast Sensura Multi-Chamber
Mini Pouch/Bag
Hollister Lock n Roll Mini
Hollister Closed Mini Pouch with Filter
Hollister Premier Mini
Hollister CenterPointLock Mini
Coloplast Assura New Generation Mini
ConvaTec Esteem Synergy Mini
Convex Base Plate
Coloplast Assura Convex
ConvaTec ActiveLife Convex
Genairex Securi-T Convex
Filtered Ostomy Bags
ConvaTec Esteem Synergy
Coloplast SenSura Click
Genairex SecuriT
Moldable Skin Barrier
ConvaTec Moldable Stomahesive
ConvaTec Esteem Synergy
Convatec Sur-Fit Moldable Durahesive
Ostomy Belts/Belt Tabs
NuHope Nu-Support Ostomy Belt
Tytex StomaSage Ostomy Belt
Coloplast Brava Belt SenSura Mio
ConvaTec Ostomy Appliance Belt
Hollister Ostomy Belt

What is the Best Ostomy Bag?

Ostomy bags are continually changing and improving with new technology and new designs. Construction materials and features for ostomy appliances are always improving. To determine which ostomy appliances are the best for you, we evaluated consumer votes. Consumers vote by their purchases. Consumers usually purchase the best product that offers the most value for their money. The chart below displays the best-selling ostomy appliances by category.

Best Ostomy Bags List

Ostomy Bag Type

Top Selling Ostomy Bags
One-Piece Ostomy Bags
Coloplast Assura
ConvaTec ActiveLife
Hollister Premier
Two-Piece Ostomy Bags
Hollister New Image
Coloplast Assura Maxi
Hollister CenterPointLock Urostomy
Drainable Bags
ConvaTec ActiveLife
Coloplast SenSura
Hollister Karaya
ConvaTec Sur-Fit
Closed Bags
Hollister New Image
Hollister Premier
ConvaTec Sur-Fit
Moldable Skin Barrier
ConvaTec Sur-Fit Natura Durahesive
ConvaTec Esteem Synergy
Ostomy Belts and Belt Tabs
Hollister Premier Pouch with Belt Tabs
Hollister Karaya 5 with Belt Tabs
Hollister Ostomy Belt
Tytex StomaSafe Ostomy Belt
Coloplast Brava Ostomy Belt
Filtered Bags
Coloplast SenSura
ConvaTec Sur-Fit
Hollister New Image
Convex Ostomy Bags
Coloplast Assura
Hollister New Image

Free Samples of Ostomy Bags and Supplies

Ostomy Medical Studies

Photo of Burt Cancaster
Burt Cancaster, Author

Vitality Medical
7910 South 3500 East, Suite C
Salt Lake City, UT 84121
(801) 733-4449
[email protected]

Burt Cancaster Profile

Posted in: Ostomy Supplies
Maribel Lopez December 17, 2017 at 1:10 PM
To decrease expense and waste is there any other materials used for bag like that of hot water bag which can be washed and has more durability???