Glossary of Ostomy Terms

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Terms like, “pancaking” or “burping” may sound like they’re describing a Sunday brunch, but in reality, ostomates have many clever words to describe what’s going on in their lives.

On this page, you’ll find a list of common terms that ostomates use, as well as their meaning. It will help you to understand some of the articles I have on this site, as well as forum posts on the Community Forum.

It is by no means complete and is entirely a work in progress, so if you have a word suggestions, just leave them in the comment section at the bottom of this page and I’ll be more than happy to add them.

Remember that terms used may vary from country to country.

Accessory

These are often optional products used to enhance the quality of life for an ostomate. This may include items like pouch covers, support belts, ostomy wraps, or stoma guards. This differs from ostomy supplies because they aren’t crucial to the success of an ostomate.

To learn more about ostomy accessories, check out my series HERE.

Adhesions

Simply put, adhesions are scar tissue that cause tissue and organs to stick together inside of you. This can be painful and often surgery is required to correct it – although there are no guarantees that new adhesions won’t form.

Anastomosis

(In the context of bowel disease) To put it simply, this is when two parts of bowel are surgically connected to eachother. This is quite common in people who have had their bowel resected.

Appliance

This refers to an ostomy system (bag + wafer) used to collect either stool or urine.

“Barbie Butt”

A slang term used to describe a lady who’s had their anus closed up (i.e. as part of surgery). The male eqivilent is a “Ken Doll Butt”.

“Burping” an appliance

This means to manually remove gas from an ostomy bag either through the outlet or by a small gap in between the flange on a two pc.

Tips on how to burp your ostomy bag can be found in THIS article.

Ballooning

Ballooning is a term that describes an ostomy bag that’s so full of gas that it looks like a balloon. This is often a sign of a faulty pouch filter.

To better manage ballooning, check out THIS article.

Barrier Ring

Used to prevent leaks by creating a seal under the wafer. Barrier rings are often pliable, like plasticine, and be molded into various sizes and shapes.

More information on barrier rings can be found in THIS article.

Barrier Wipes/Spray

Used to apply a chemical barrier on the skin around the stoma to protect it from irritation.

More information on barrier wipes and sprays can be found in THIS article.

Baseplate

See wafer.

Belt Loops

Found either on an ostomy bag or wafer (depending on the brand and style). Used to secure an accessory belt.

Blockage / Bowel Obstruction

When the normal flow of output from the stoma is being restricted, it’s refered to as a blockage or bowel obstruction. There could be several reasons for this to happen, but total blockages may require medican intervention.

To better manage and prevent blockages, please refer to THIS article.

Bowel Resection

A bowel resection is when some or all of your bowel (small or large bowel) is removed. If part of the bowel is removed an anastamosis can be performed to join the two ends together.

Closed Pouch

A closed ostomy pouch is one that has no outlet or drainage spout on the bottom of it. It is used primarily by colostomates and is often replaced when full.

More information on ostomy pouches can be found in THIS article.

Closure

This referes to the part of an ostomy pouch outlet that keeps it sealed until you’re ready to empty the pouch. Closures can be a clip, Velcro fastener or spigot depending on the style of pouch.

Colectomy

A colectomy describes the full or partial removal of the colon. See also: proctocolectomy, subtotal colectomy, and partial colectomy.

Colostomate

A common name describing someone who has a colostomy.

Colostomy

With this type of ostomy, a stoma is formed somewhere along the colon (large intestine).

Convex/Convexity

A convex wafer is thicker than a tradition wafer and they are shaped in a way that applies gentle pressure around the stoma. Wearing a convex appliance may help to prevent leaks for those who have a flush or recessed stoma. It is recommended that an ostomy nurse assess the stoma before using a convex product since there are risks of bruising or pressure sores if they are worn incorrectly.

Continent Ostomy

With this type of ostomy, an internal pouch or reservoir is created to collect output. Rather than wearing an appliance, a person with a continent ostomy would use a catheter to empty their internal pouch.

This is less common than traditional ostomies and not every person is a candidate for it.

A “Kock Pouch” and “BCIR” are two types of continent ostomies.

Coupling

On a two-piece appliance, the coupling is the part that joins the bag with the wafer, usually at the flange. Couplings can be mechanical (made of plastic) or adhesive.

Cut-to-fit Wafer

These wafers must have a hole cut to allow the stoma to fit through. This type of wafer is ideal for people who have irregularly shaped stomas or have a stoma that doesn’t keep a consistent size.

Drainable Pouch

A drainable ostomy pouch allows you to empty your pouch through an opening in the bottom of it. This opening, which is often called the outlet, is secured using a clip, velcro or a spigot.

For more details on various drainable pouches, please check out THIS article.

Dyson

A slang term used to describe someone who once had an ostomy but then had a reversal – they are now bagless. The name “Dyson” comes from the brand of bagless vacuum cleaners, hence the name given to ex-ostomates.

Effluent

Often used to describe something that comes out of a stoma. This can include stool, urine, and mucus. See output.

End Ostomy

An “end ostomy” is when only one part of the intestine comes through the skin. This is most common in people who have permanent ostomies.

For more details, please visit THIS article.

Extended Wear Wafer

Designed to handle liquid output better than “regular wear” wafers. These should have a stronger adhesive that absorbs fluids better than regular wafers. They are intended to be used for longer wear times.

Filter

Some ostomy bags have filters on them to help remove gas and prevent ballooning. These often look different between brands, but most are located near the top of the appliance. Nearly all ostomy filters contain charcoal to help deodorize the gas as it leaves the bag. Colostomates and some ileostomates will benefit from using a bag with a filter, although filters are notorious for clogging and not work working very well.

Fistula

A fistula is an abnormal connection between two organs or an organ and the surface of your skin. I am no stranger to having them, and they are common in people with Crohn’s Disease.

These connections can be from anywhere:

  • Between the bowel to the skin (called an enterocutaneous fistula).
  • Between the rectum to the vagina (called a rectovaginal fistula).
  • Between the bowel and the bladder (called an enterovesical fistula).
  • etc.

See also: Mucus fistula.

Flange

This can sometimes refer to the wafer or baseplate, but more commonly the term “flange” refers to the plastic ring on a two-piece appliance that connects the bag to the wafer.

Flange Extender / Wafer Extender

This is a product that is designed to protect the edges of an ostomy wafer. They can come in handy when swimming; to secure an ostomy appliance; to contain leaks; and to extend the life of a wafer.

My guide to flange extenders can be found HERE.

Flush Stoma

A stoma that is “flush” is even with the skin and does not protrude.

Food Bolus Obstruction

This obstruction is caused when food creates a mass that’s difficult to pass through your digestive tract and ends up getting stuck somewhere. This is the type of blockage that sent me to the hospital.

Hernia

In the context of an ostomy, see Parastomal Hernia.

Ileal Pouch-Anal Anastomosis

An Ileal Pouch-Anal Anastomosis (IPAA) is a fancy term used to describe a surgically created internal pouch (i.e. a “j-pouch”) used to collect stool. This is a common procedure in people who have Ulcerative Colitis and have opted for a “j-pouch” and usually follows a period of time where the person would have a temporary ostomy in preparation for their reversal.

For more information on j-pouches, please check out THIS article.

Ileostomate

A common name describing someone who has an ileostomy.

Ileostomy

With this type of ostomy, a stoma is formed at the end of the small intestine (the ileum).

Irrigate

The process of using water to flush the contents of an ostomy bag out. This differs from irrigation that a colostomate may use to flush stool from their colon.

Check out THIS cool trick to irrigate your ostomy bag.

Irrigate (Colostomy)

This refers to colonic irrigation by which a person with a colostomy will purposely flush the contents of their colon out using water. This process helps to make bowel movements more consistent and planned but can require up to an hour to do. It’s important for anyone who is considering irrigation to speak with their doctor or stoma nurse as not every colostomate is a good candidate for irrigation and most will require some form of training.

“Ken Doll Butt”

A slang term used to describe a man who’s had their anus closed up (i.e. as part of surgery). The female eqivilent is a “Barbie Butt”.

Leak

A leak is when an appliance fails to contain its contents. This often occurs under the wafer, but can also happen through the filter, outlet, or coupling.

For tips on how to better manage and prevent leaks, please refer to THIS article.

Loop Ostomy

A “loop ostomy” is when two sections of bowel are brought out through the skin: one part actively producing output and the other “inactive” (although it may still output mucus). This is most common in people who have a temporary ostomy as it allows for an easier reversal.

For more details, please visit THIS article.

Moldable Wafer

A moldable wafer allows you to size the hole for your stoma without needing to cut it. This can provide a better fit around the stoma, although not all brands offer moldable products and not all moldable products work for every ostomate.

Mucus

This slimy substance is something we most often hear of in relation to stuffy noses and colds, but for someone who’s had bowel surgery this is often a substance that’s coming form other places in the body.

If you’ve had a subtotal colectomy, where your rectum is still in place but isn’t connected to anything (like I had), mucus may still collect and come out of your anus – much like a bowel movement.  This is completely normal as mucus is produced in our bowels to help pass stools. But if your end bits aren’t connected to anything, your body still continues to produce this mucus.

Sometimes, mucus may come from a “mucus fistula” which has been purposely created by a surgeon to eliminate excess mucus from your bowels.

Mucus Fistula

A mucus fistula is a surgically created stoma used to expel mucus (vs. stool/urine) into a collection bag (which is often just an ostomy bag).  I had one for a brief time after my ostomy surgery. If you have a loop ostomy, one of the two openings may serve as a mucus fistula.

One-Piece Appliance

This describes an ostomy bag that’s attached to the wafer as a single piece.

For more details, and a comparison between 1pc and 2pc appliances, check out THIS article.

Opaque Ostomy Bag

This type of bag is not see-through and is often covered by fabric or colored plastic.

Ostomate

A term that means “a person with an ostomy”. This word is a blanket term that encompasses all people with an ostomy, regardless of the type of ostomy. See ileostomate, colostomate, urostomate.

Ostomy

An ostomy describes a surgical procedure in which an artificial opening (called a stoma) is created from an organ of the body. The word ostomy and stoma are often used interchangeably; “I have an ostomy” and “I have a stoma” both mean the same thing. See ileostomy, colostomy, urostomy.

For a more detailed answer, check out THIS article.

Ostomy Bag

The bag, which is also referred to as a pouch, is where urine or stools are collected after it leaves the stoma. An ostomy bag is connected to a wafer either as a one-piece or two-piece system.

More information on ostomy bags can be found in THIS article.

Ostomy Reversal

For someone who has a temporary ostomy, a reversal means that their intestines are reconnected to restore a more natural bowel function. In many cases, this can involve the creation of an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (i.e a “j-pouch) when the colon and rectum are removed.

Outlet

This is the part of an ostomy pouch that opens up to help eliminate output into a toilet or receptacle. Found only on drainable pouches. The outlet will have a closure to secure the contents inside the bag when needed.

Output

A term used to describe stool, urine, or mucus coming from a stoma. The consistency of this output can range from liquid to solid stools depending on the stoma type, diet, and health of the individual. Urostomates would output urine.

Pancaking

A funny term used to describe when output is stuck near the top of an ostomy bag or around the stoma, rather than fall to the bottom of the bag. Colostomates and ileostomates with thicker output may experience this. Also referred to as patty caking).

To better manage and prevent pancaking, please check out THIS article.

Parastomal Hernia

A parastomal hernia is when a loop of your bowel bulges under the skin next to and around your stoma. This can occur due to the weakening of your abdominal wall following surgery.

Peristomal Skin

This describes the skin around your stoma.

Partial Colectomy

A partial colectomy is when part of the colon is removed but the rectum is left. An anastomosis is performed to join the two ends together.

Pelvic Exenteration

In this surgery, all of a person’s organs, such as the bladder, urethra, rectum, and anus are removed. This often leads them to have a wet colostomy.

Permanent Ostomy/Stoma

A permanent ostomy is made when there’s no chance or plan for a reversal. This is often in the form of an end ostomy, although some people may be candidates for a continent ostomy.

Pouch Closure

The closure on an ostomy pouch is the part that seals the outlet. It can be a clip, Velcro, or even look like a twist tie. Pouches that hold liquid output or urine often have a spigot as part of the closure system.

Pouch Filter

A pouch filter is a feature of some ostomy bags that allow gas to escape the ostomy bag to prevent “ballooning”. Most pouch filters have charcoal in them to also deodorize the gas.

Pouch Outlet

The outlet of an ostomy pouch is located at the very bottom where stool or urine leaves the bag. There are several styles depending on the brand and whether liquid or hard stool is being contained in the bag.

Pre-Cut Wafer

Pre-cut wafers have a hole already cut to specific sizes of stomas. These are ideal for people who have a stoma that keeps a consistent size (ideally, round).

Proctectomy

The surgical removal of the rectum (partial or complete). I had this surgery done after my initial subtotal colectomy.

Proctocolectomy

Is a type of bowel resection when both the entire rectum and colon are moved in one procedure.

Prolapsed Stoma

A prolapsed stoma is one that sticks out much longer than planned. While many ostomates who have a protruded stoma may still be able to manage their daily care, a surgical revision is often needed to correct it.

Protruding Stoma

A protruding stoma sticks out a bit from the skin. The length of this protrusion is usually under an inch but can vary depending on the type of stoma.

Recessed Stoma

A recessed stoma dips below the skin line. This type of stoma can be problematic and is often the cause of leaks. A convex appliance will often be recommended to help push the stoma out a bit more.

Retracted Stoma

Like a recessed stoma, a retracted stoma is one that does not stick out. A retracted stoma may be flush with the skin, recessed, or completely inverted below the skin. This can cause many problems with leaks and convex appliances are often suggested.

Regular Wear Wafer / Standard Wear Wafer

The most common type of wafer. These are most often used by ostomates (especially colostomates) who intend to change their appliance frequently (daily, multiple times a day, or every few days). The adhesive on the back of these wafers aren’t ideal for absorbing liquid, so ileostomates and urostomates may have better luck with an extended wear product.

Skin Barrier

See wafer.

Stoma

A stoma is an opening on the surface of the skin which has been surgically created, usually to divert either urine or stool.

Stoma Cap

Perhaps the smallest type of ostomy appliance you can wear, a stoma cap is designed to be very discreet. It is worn exactly like a usual one or two-piece ostomy appliance. But because it has such a small capacity, it’s not recommended for anyone with ongoing output.

It is most commonly used by colostomates who irrigate their colon and also to collect mucus from a mucus fistula.

For more information and photos of what stoma caps look like, check out THIS article.

Stoma Powder

A special powder designed to help absorb moisture from weepy and damaged skin around the stoma. This is often covered with a barrier wipe or spray in order to create a more appropriate surface for an ostomy wafer to stick to.

For a more detailed look at stoma powders, check out THIS guide.

Stomahesive

Stomahesive is a product line by the company ConvaTec. It covers ostomy wafers, stoma paste, stoma powders, and more. Often confused with an adhesive product.

Subtotal Colectomy

In this type of colectomy, the entire colon is removed but the rectum is left. I had this procedure done when I had my ilestomy surgery and was later followed by a proctecomy.

Temporary Ostomy/Stoma

A temporary ostomy is one that’s created with the intention of reversing it later on. This is common in people who have plans to get an internal pouch (i.e. a “j-pouch”) or when bowel rest is desired.

This type of ostomy may be converted to a permanent one. This usually involves the complete removal of the colon and rectum and turning a loop ostomy into an end ostomy.

Transit Time

This is the time it take for food to pass through your entire digestive system (from mouth to anus/stoma).

Two-piece Appliance

In a two-piece system, the ostomy bag and wafer are separated from one another and need to be attached to work.

For more details, and a comparison between 1pc and 2pc appliances, check out THIS article.

Urostomate

A common name describing someone who has a urostomy.

Urostomy

A type of ostomy in which urine is diverted outside of the body.

Wafer

A wafer is the part of an ostomy system that sticks to your skin. Also referred to as a baseplate, skin barrier, or flange. These can be flat on the back or convex.

See THIS guide for more details on wafers.

Wafer Erosion

Describes the breakdown of an ostomy wafer. A wafer tends to erode or “melt” around the stoma as it comes in contact with fluids.

Wear Time

Wear time refers to the time between appliance changes, more specifically, the time between wafer changes. This can vary between individuals, but the average wear time tends to be around 3-5 days for many ileostomates and colostomates.

Wet Colostomy

In this type of ostomy, both urine and stool are being output from a single stoma. It is common for people who have undergone a pelvic exenteration and the output is liquid (as the name suggests).

To learn when to change your ostomy appliance, check out THIS article.
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4 thoughts on “Glossary of Ostomy Terms

  1. Good list, Eric. I didn’t know Barbie butt or Dyson, but that could be because I’m in Australia and we don’t use those terms, well not that I have heard.

    • I wasn’t familiar with “Dyson” either, and some of these terms are country-specific. That said, let me know if you come across any Aussie terms that would be worth putting up here :)

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