The term “burping” isn’t something you’d expect to go hand in hand with ostomy care, but it is something that ileostomates and colostomates should familiarize themselves with.
What Does it Mean to “Burp” an Ostomy Bag?
“Burping” means to manually remove gas from an ostomy pouch either through the outlet on the bottom or by a small gap between the flange on a two-piece appliance.
“But shouldn’t the filter on an ostomy pouch already do that?”
In an ideal world, yes. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world!
Most ostomates find that the filter on their appliance tends to either not work at all or clog up quickly and stops working soon after.
When this happens, gas builds up in the bag and that can cause “ballooning”, which can lead to lead to leaks and/or a very noticeable bulge under clothing.
Usually, an ostomate who has a ballooned pouch often has to visit the bathroom and empty their appliance, often times when it has no output in it.
This can be annoying and time-consuming, which is why burping your appliance can be a great little shortcut to use.
A Few Warnings
Like most shortcuts, burping an appliance isn’t without risks. I’ll highlight some important ones below.
- Smell. There’s no escaping this one, although some pouch deodorants can help. When you release gas from your ostomy pouch it’s pretty much like farting out in the open. There will be an odor, often times quite strong, so be mindful of where you do this. I recommend heading for a bathroom.
- Leaks. Burping your appliance may cause output to escape your bag. If done correctly, this should never happen.
- Messy coupling. You may not get a leak, but opening up the coupling of your two-piece appliance may cause stool to get between the plastic rings of both your bag and wafer. Sometimes this can lead to odors or even stain your clothes.
- Projectile poop! When the velocity of gas escaping your pouch meets with a soiled bag, you can sometimes get poop splatter. I’m being serious. If you plan to burp your appliance and it’s really full of gas, take toilet paper and place it right on top of where you’re opening the coupling to catch anything that flies out.
- Full pouch ejection! Some two-piece systems work better than others, and the ones that don’t work well with burping often cause this catastrophic failure. If your two-piece coupling uses stiff plastic (i.e Coloplast Sensura Click or Sensura Mio), then you won’t be able to easily open just a small crack for gas to escape. I would strongly recommend against burping if you’re using an appliance like that.
How to Burp an Ostomy Bag
There are two main techniques for burping an ostomy bag, which I will explain below:
Two-Piece with Mechanical Coupling
My preferred method of burping involves a two-piece system with a mechanical coupling. I find that the Hollister New Image two-piece is one of the best for this, but you can experiment with other brands to see which work best for you.
The idea is to just slightly open the top part of your two-piece coupling enough to allow gas to escape.
This works best while standing and you can also apply gentle pressure to your pouch to help move the gas along.
If you plan to do this while on your back, I would highly suggest making sure that no output has collected around your stoma or you’ll have a leak.
While this technique is geared towards ostomates who don’t wear two-piece systems, it can also be used when the two-piece system isn’t ideal (i.e. adhesive coupling or stiff plastic coupling).
This technique involves opening the outlet at the bottom of your drainable bag to release gas.
The only easy way to do this is to lay on your back and lift the tail of your appliance up so that any stool will fall towards the top of your appliance (and away from the outlet).
When you are sure that no output is near the outlet, you can carefully open the outlet and allow gas to escape.
You may apply gentle pressure to your pouch to direct gas outwards, but use caution as this may cause stool to escape.
Once that’s done, you can close the outlet and stand back up.
Bonus: Osto EZ-Vent
If neither technique works for you, but you still want to burp your appliance, I would suggest looking into the Osto EZ-Vent.
The Osto EZ-Vent is a product that you can apply to just about any ostomy appliance and it allows you to vent gas easily.
Some people might like the convenience of using the Osto EZ-Vent over burping the usual way, but they do need to be installed on your ostomy pouch BEFORE you wear it.
Burping your ostomy appliance can be a convenient way to relieve your pouch of ballooning.
While you can burp just about any appliance using various techniques, you’ll still want to be mindful of the smell it can produce and the risks of leaks (or worse).