Is it an Ostomy Bag or an Ostomy Pouch??

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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?

Not necessarily!

Coloplast ostomy bag listing
Coloplast using “ostomy bag” on this education page.
Convatec ostomy pouch listing
ConvaTec uses the term “pouch” in their educational information.
Hollister Ostomy Pouches listing
Hollister lists their products as “pouches” or “pouching system”.

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.

Wordwide google trends ostomy pouch and bag
Globally, “ostomy bag” is used far more often than “ostomy pouch”.
2004 to present ostomy bag and ostomy pouch
The long-term trend for each term in the USA is very interesting – look at how the term “ostomy bag” really took off recently.

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.

Colon and rectal surgeons mention ostomy bag
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons even mention “ostomy bag” on their educational page.
Registered nurse ostomy pouch and bag mention
This website for registered nurses references “ostomy bag” and “ostomy pouch” on the same page.

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”!

Google patents 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”.

UOAA ostomy bag reference
The UOAA mentions the term “ostomy bag”, but they do use “pouch” more often.

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.

Huffington post ostomy bag mention
One example of many!

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.

Question: What term do you use and why?
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28 Comments on "Is it an Ostomy Bag or an Ostomy Pouch??"

newest oldest
Guest
Ruth
I had gastric bypass surgery and my stomach is now called a pouch as it is 2 ounces small. Just as we sometimes name our stomas after ostomy surgery, after gastric bypass surgery we name our pouches, or new stomachs, sometimes as well. It is incredibly un appetizing, and counterproductive to my weight loss recovery to refer to a bag of poop hanging from my side as anything as fancy as my lovely pouch that is my stomach….though all your points are valid and well taken. Appliance sounds like a mouthfull considering that i also have leg and hand braces….i… Read more »
Member
Bunny

I’ve always used “pouch” because that’s what my ostomy nurse called it from my first visit before I had my ostomy surgery. It sounds a little gentler than “bag” to me. Just personal preference.

Member
chefsinclair

It’s a bag for me. It’s simple, straight to the point and Non-Ostomates ‘get it’ right away. I have tried to use ‘appliance’ and people think that I need to empty my toaster or stove. When I further explain that I have to empty ‘my bag’, then they understand and I then get the opportunity to share the ‘experience’ of having a bag on the outside of your body. Which is way more beneficial, than worrying about what adjective to use to describe my bag.

Dona
Member

Good one ( ones) Alex! And welcome to the forum.

Guest
Alex

Its a bag… otherwise the names I have for my 2 stomas have no relevance, they are…
Frodo & Bilbo BAGgins. 😎

Dona
Member

Hey Alpha .. its in the bag!I like your ‘avatar’ block! Red bums are O.K. around here. and welcome.

Guest
Alpha

I’m new to the ostomy community and I never knew the politics behind the words we used before. I’ll be mindful in future!

Dona
Member

Ooooh, I like accessory! Could be fashionable even. ERIC, ….     P.S. thanks for getting rid of the ratings like ‘esteemed member’ etc and just putting ‘registered.’I like it a lot better. Its not a competition and we are all in the same soup. Well done!

Dona
Member

… ‘appliance’ is a lot more mysterious. Leave them guessing. That  could be anything from a dishwasher to a vacuum cleaner! ‘Bag’ does conjure up kind of a unseemly image. I also use different terms depending on the closeness of the relationship.If anyone asks to see it  with whom I don’t want to share I was always just going to say ” I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”.Still waiting to use that line .. people mostly don’t know/can’t tell except that I am NOT sick anymore.HA

Member
Emby36

I’m a bag lady!

Chris
Member

 It depends on who I’m talking to. With my wife or close friends I say ‘bag’ with people not so close, I say ‘appliance’. I just do this. I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to.

Marcie
Member

I call it “Nellie’s Dress” Typical woman, always changing her dress. But in the order catalog it is called “pouches” What ever, if u want to bag it, dress it, pouch it..   We all know what that means.. That is why we are here right???? 

Dona
Member

Bag for me as well. I’m with Robert and John68..pouches just remind me of something marsupial. I call the ‘wafer’ a patch. and a barrier ring a ‘donut’. So it goes.Good topic Eric .. this was all confusing at first. And none of the nurses or doctors I have encounted actually USE these things.

Member

So if a guy ostomate meets a girl ostomate both wear a pouch they have children will they be Joeys!!

Member
Emby36

Good one!

Member
Bunny

Love it!

Robert
Member

I call it a bag . Never really gave it much thought till now bag just seems better to me than pouch . Kangaroo’s have a pouch Lol JK  I have a bag . And  John after I joined the forum I heard people refer to the wafer and I wasn’t really sure what they meant at first . I refer to mine as a barrier but don’t ask me why ……And Rachel and Christine welcome to the group . As you can see we are all still learning .

Sasquatch
Member

Don’t know why, but I’ve always used “bag”.  I believe every instance I ever heard of one pre-surgery was referred to as “bag”.  Doesn’t bother me in the least what it’s called, as long as it does it’s job!

Member

Great subject, The first time I ever heard of some one who was an ostomate I was around 10yrs old. the fact he had been fitted with a bag really made me feel really sorry for him. it sounded so terrible because bag made me think of plastic shopping bag! I don,t mind the term but may be it give out the wrong message. Pouch I can see how that becomes confused with J-Pouch. Appliance is a good middle ground. The site has taught me many new terms like Output, and in the UK we call wafers a flange!!

Guest
Christine

I’ve never come across the idea of “bag” being offensive or derogatory. I use “bag” because I also have a failed ileoanal pouch (J-pouch) so I need to distinguish between the two.

Guest
Rachel

I personally like the term bag better than pouch. Pouch to me sounds…old. Whereas bag is just what it is and most people that’s I speak to wouldn’t know what it meant if I gestured to myself and said “I wear a pouch” as opposed to “I wear a bag”. But that’s my personal preference!