Ostomy surgery entails some risk, and one of those risks are parastomal hernias.
In this review, I’ll be looking at the Hernia Helper!
Disclosure: The Hernia Helper I’ve been using was graciously provided free of charge by the manufacturer for this review. They played no role in shaping the content of this review, although I did request a few photos to help illustrate the product being used for a large hernia.
About the Hernia Helper
The Hernia Helper is a custom-made abdominal hernia support and/or parastomal hernia prevention belt that was created when the company’s founder, a colostomate, developed parastomal hernias.
It’s made of a non-stretch, woven cotton that has a stiffer panel on the front to help support and prevent hernias. The ends of the belt have Velcro, which is used to secure the belt in place.
Along the back of the belt are two, verticle strips of plastic that have been inserted into the belt itself. These help to provide stability and prevents the belt from bunching (which is a common complaint with tall belts and wraps).
The only measurement I needed to give with my waist size at stoma level, but I also let Gord (the company’s founder) know my flange size.
There is an opening where your stoma would stick out from on the front of the panel that is cut oval so it becomes round when stretched. I will note that the opening is designed to sit on top of your flange, not around it; this design adds more support and helps to flatten out the appliance.
If you’re Canadian, then you’ll be happy to know that the Hernia Helper is a product of Canada :)
Using this Product
This style of hernia belt is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated.
If you don’t have a hernia and simply want prevention support:
While you have your ostomy bag on and exposed, you’ll want to feed the tail end of the bag through the opening while making sure that as much of the bag is pulled out.
Be mindful about centering your stoma to the middle of the opening, as you don’t want your stoma to be squshed or rub up against the sides of the opening.
As mentioned previously, the opening is designed to go over your flange (the plastic connectors on a two-piece appliance) rather than around it, so don’t try to force it around your flange!
Once you have the belt where you want it, you’ll wrap it around your abdomen and secure it in place with the Velcro, making it tight enough to offer support, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable.
Because this belt doesn’t stretch,
If you do have a hernia and want to support it:
If you already have a hernia, it’s often best practice to lay flat on your back for several minutes so that the hernia can flatten as much as possible before applying the belt (which can do while laying down).
The same steps as above will apply, and your hernia should be well supported until you remove the belt.
Wearing the Hernia Helper all day and night has been a mostly positive experience.
I love the support it offers, especially as my bag fills up, and it gives me assurance when I’m doing any kind of lifting.
The fabric does tend to absorb sweat, rather than wicking it away, and it does feel much hotter around the abdomen when you’re wearing it during the hot, summer months. On the flip side, it helps to keep warmer during the winter, so I guess there’s a trade-off there.
Because of how the face of the belt sits on my flange, I find that using a pouch cover is difficult to impossible because the pouch cover has nothing to hang onto (usually, it hangs off the floating-flange of my Hollister appliance).
This is a non-issue if you wear opaque bags or keep your appliance under clothing, but it is something that I’ve had to work around.
Since the fabric used is not stretchy, I also find that it tends to get loose if I’m doing anything that involved stretching upwards or when I tighten up my core. I emailed Hernia Helper to ask about this and Gord said that he finds that stiffer fabric helps to support larger hernias better, but entertained the idea as part of a future design.
My biggest complaint about this belt is that I often find that my stoma often bleeds a little when I’m wearing it. I’ve determined that it’s likely being caused when the belt shifts a little and the opening of the belt rubs against my stoma.
This wouldn’t be something that happens with products that have an opening that goes around the base of the flange, but you do lose an element of support with those products.
Supporting a Large Hernia
Because I don’t have a hernia but wanted to include some photos of the product being used by someone who does, I had contacted Gord at Hernia Helper to see if he could send some.
He did, so I’m happy to present what the Hernia Helper looks like when supporting a large hernia (and it really does make a difference!).
At the time of this writing (Dec 2018), the Hernia Helper is available to order for $140 Canadian or US$120. Shipping is included in the price.
This is on the high-end for hernia belts, but most private insurance should cover it. Being that shipping is included in the price, this might not be as expensive as it seems, and because private insurance doesn’t tend to cover shipping charges, you’ll likely have nothing to pay for out of pocket.
Customization of each belt can be requested at no extra charge, so if you need one with a hole that’s higher or lower, it can be done.
In my many months of using the Hernia Helper, I found that it’s been comfortable and effective for hernia prevention. It also appears to work very well to support existing abdominal hernias.
While a hernia belt isn’t something that all ostomates consider, the risk of a parastomal hernia is high enough that all ostomates should be looking into a hernia prevention belt such as this one.