I’ve had a few people write to me asking why I use the term “ostomy bag” when talking about ostomies, rather than “pouch”. I’d like to address this very interesting topic in this article!
What’s the problem?
The term “ostomy bag” can often feel derogatory, and there are many who fell that the term should not be used.
First, I’d like to say that my preference is to say either “ostomy pouch” or “ostomy appliance”, but I will very often refer to them as an “ostomy bag” in my written articles, videos, and even when conversing between other ostomates.
That said, I do try to be sensitive when I speak to new ostomates and acknowledge that words can often impact someone’s outlook, so I’ll be more selective in those situations.
But which term is correct? Which is more acceptable?
There are actually quite a few names for the products we use to collect the urine or waste that comes out of our stoma.
- Ostomy appliance.
- Ostomy Bag
- Ostomy Pouch
- Pouching System
- Medical device.
- Ostomy kit.
- Waste collection system.
- Urine collection system.
I would argue that they are all acceptable to use when describing such products, but some people may find the term “bag” to be offensive or offputting.
I can completely understand this, and if I never had to say the word “ostomy bag” then it wouldn’t matter to me one bit, but there are several reasons why I have and will continue to use the term “ostomy bag” or “bag” in my articles and videos.
“Bag” is a term that appliance manufacturers use
What better place to find the correct term than the manufacturers who make these products, right?
Many companies who make both supplies and accessories for people living with an ostomy still use the term “ostomy bag” in their literature, but not nearly as often as they use “ostomy pouch”.
This is actually quite interesting, especially when we consider the next point.
“Bag” is what people search for
I love digging into data, especially when it comes to data that can be used to help create and share information about ostomies to help benefit others around me.
As it turns out, far more people search for “ostomy bag” than they do “ostomy pouch”. In fact, in some countries, the term “ostomy pouch” is rarely used.
This is of importance, because if I were to create content that never mentioned “ostomy bag”, it would not reach as many people. This is one reason why I like to use both “pouch” and” bag” in the same article or video.
Healthcare professionals use “bag” quite often
From hospitals to published research to large associations who oversee colorectal surgeons, the term “ostomy bag” is common.
Now, I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or if healthcare professionals are simply “speaking the language of their patients”, but it is something to be aware of.
“Ostomy bag” is a very popular term in patent filings
Have a new invention for the ostomy world? Chances are you’ll file it under an “ostomy bag” breakthrough and not one for pouches.
According to patents indexed on Google Patents, there are more than twice as many patents filed using “ostomy bag” in the description as there are “ostomy pouch”.
And there are a lot of hits when searching for “ostomy bag”!
The UOAA uses “bag”
The United Ostomy Association of America is probably one of the largest ostomy charities on the planet, and you’ll still find them using the term “bag”, although not nearly as often as they use “pouch”.
I’m not surprised by this since their audience is primarily directed at new patients, but they do acknowledge the term “ostomy bag” when explaining about ostomy appliances.
The media uses “bag”
It’s far more likely that any report or story about a person who has an ostomy will include “ostomy bag” somewhere in the title or body of the article.
Part of me wants to believe they do this because more people would recognize that an ostomy bag is rather than an ostomy appliance or pouching system, but another part of me feels as if they use the term for shock value.
Using “bag” and “pouch” is good for SEO!
As I explained in my second point, people search for the term “ostomy bag” more often than they do any other term that describes the actual appliance.
As someone who creates content, I have to make sure that my information can be found easily, so I will use a blend of terms to describe a pouching system.
This is done intentionally and only because I know it will improve my content’s search engine visibility.
“Pouch” can be confusing
While the word “pouch” can be used to replace “bag” in certain instances, the term may lead to more confusion.
One example is in the case of a fairly common surgery in IBD, the ileoanal anastomosis (a.k.a a “j-pouch”). If you were to tell someone you have a “pouch”, they may not understand that you mean an ostomy pouch and not an internal pouch.
As one reader also mentioned, it’s common to use the term “pouch” to mean gastric pouch after gastric bypass surgery. If you were to also have an ostomy and called your ostomy bag a “pouch”, your healthcare professional may not know which “pouch” you’re referring to.
So what term should we use?
I’m not trying to use the ad populum fallacy by saying that “bag” is the right term to use because of everyone is using it, but I do want to make a point that it’s used often enough that it can’t simply be replaced with “pouch”, no matter how crude or primitive the term “ostomy bag” is to some.
But this does raise an interesting point. What if we all worked to eliminate the word “ostomy bag” from our vocabulary and replace it with the gentler sounding “ostomy pouch”?
We could certainly try, or we can put the same energy and work towards destigmatizing ostomies and ostomy appliances so the word won’t have as much of an emotional sting as it already does to some.