While many ostomates aren’t looking to protect their stoma from impact, a stoma guard can still be an extremely useful accessory when it comes to seat belts and clothing. I’ve worn the StomaShield guard for nearly two months, and I’m excited to bring you this review.
About the StomaShield
Made in the USA, by StomaGear, Inc., the StomaShield is a hard plastic guard that features padding which can be added to accommodate different stoma lengths and body shapes. The pads come in three thicknesses (4mm, 8mm and 12mm) and stick to the guard using a Velcro fastener. While the thickest pad is great for ostomates who have a protruding stoma, like I do, it also works great if you have thicker output.
There are currently three different size guards, which you can choose depending on the position of your stoma. A small guard is used for stomas that are at or below the line; the medium guard is best suited to ostomates who have their stoma just above the belt line (like me), and the large guard is best used for stomas that are high above the belt line. Each size is sold separately, but the company offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee in case you get one that isn’t perfect for you.
You can see the sizes with measurements below:
The guard is held in place using an elastic, non-slip belt, which is fully adjustable and will fit just about and size abdomen. It can be trimmed too, so there’s nothing dangling while you’re wearing it. The belt goes on using an easy to use buckle, and it can be fastened and unfastened quickly.
Depending on the thickness of the padding used, this guard can keep a fairly low profile.
How I Use This Guard
Using the guard is pretty straight forward: I place it over my stoma, so the top edge is about an inch above my stoma. If I’m doing a lot of sitting, I’ll raise it up a bit more so the bottom edge rests comfortably over my leg.
The belt that comes with it snaps together and holds its place quite comfortably. I don’t have to adjust the belt while it’s on, and it doesn’t slide on my skin. Because it’s narrow, it also makes wearing the guard quite cool and well ventilated.
While you technically could wear the guard and have your pouch over your pants, the real magic happens when you tuck the guard and pouch under your clothing. Because the guard has a channel for output to drop freely, it allows you to wear pretty much any type of pants, even with a tight fit. I had no trouble wearing several types of jeans, although the jeans that came up higher were the most comfortable.
I’m also able to wear my shirt tucked in, which is often a challenge, so that alone makes this guard a valuable tool in my ostomy accessory collection. You’d never know it, but I wore this guard while zip-lining and cave exploring without any problem. In fact, I would have had a difficult time doing either without the guard!
And if the ability to wear the clothing you like isn’t enough, the StomaShield also works great in the car as a seat belt protector. This is especially handy if you find that your seat belt comes over your stoma, or if you’d like to protect your pouch from being “pinched off” while in a vehicle.
When it comes time to empty my ostomy pouch, I simply lift the guard up and empty, then set the guard back in place. It’s not necessary to remove the guard when you empty your appliance.
Does It Work?
Absolutely! You don’t have to play contact sports to appreciate the benefits that this guard has to offer. I found the ability to keep my pouch under my pants to be quite convenient and it’s given me the opportunity to wear jeans or a tucked in shirt more often. With winter fast approaching, I know I’ll be using this guard a lot.
For the sake of being thorough with this review, I’ve used the guard with the following appliances : Coloplast 2pc Xpro and 1pc Assura, Hollister New Image 2pc, and ConvaTec Natura 2pc systems, all with equal comfort. The guard did not impact the wear time of my appliances, nor did it create any issues with my wafer or skin – if anything, it’s provided more security to my pouch.
There are a few things that I’d like to mention, since there may be factors that will impact how comfortable and effective this guard is. Keep in mind that every ostomate has a different body shape and stool consistency, so these factors likely won’t apply for everyone using the guard.
- Thick output and/or gas can be problematic when wearing the guard. This isn’t an issue reserved only for this guard, but it can pose a small challenge. When your output pancakes (collects near the stoma without dropping to the bottom of the pouch), it causes the guard to lift. Gas has the same effect, so it’s important to deal with those while you’re wearing the guard. Thick output can be dealt with using several methods, which I outline in THIS article, but gas can be tricky. It helps to use a pouch that has an effective filter, or even the Osto EZ-Vent.
- You will lose some pouch capacity. Don’t expect to be able to fill your pouch to full capacity before needing to empty it (don’t ever let your pouch get that full!). The guard will give you less space to collect output, so you may find yourself emptying a few extra times a day. This isn’t a problem for me since I would normally empty my pouch before it’s 1/3 full, but it does means that I can’t sleep with the guard on. If your pouch is a “small” size (less than 12″ long), then you’ll probably notice this more.
- Bending can be a bit of a challenge too. I find that bending (like to tie my shoes) is sometimes a bit awkward with my appliance, and it’s not any easier while wearing the guard. It’s more of a problem when the pouch is filling up, but being mindful of this potential situation can go a long way. I’ll often place the guard a bit higher up than I’d usually wear it, and bending becomes much easier. Keep in mind that the size of the guard you use might have an impact on this too.
- As with bending, sitting can be a bit uncomfortable, but really only when my pouch fills up more than 1/3. I’ve been in a car for up to 6 hours a day and the guard remained quite comfortable, so it certainly depends on certain factors and is not a reflection on the guard itself.
These minor points don’t diminish the benefits of the guard. If you have a high-output stoma, you may need to make a few adjustments, in addition to keeping your pouch as empty as possible.
At the time of this writing (Feb 2017), a StomaShield guard can be purchased for
US$120 US149 + shipping (which is $20 US$30 to Canada and only $7 within the US). That price includes one guard in the size of your choice, three pads (one in each thickness) and the belt. You can order extra belts or pads if they ever become damaged, but they seem pretty durable.
The StomaShield can also be shipped internationally, however, you’ll have to check with your insurance company to see if they’ll cover this type of accessory. Even paying for the guard out of pocket is a small investment compared to the freedom and protection it offers.
I want to thank Brian Hakel, the inventor of the StomaShield and President of StomaGear, Inc. for sending the guards for review. We’ve exchanged many emails, and he’s a wonderful person who cares deeply about improving the lives of ostomates. Brian is an ileostomate due to Ulcerative Colitis, and he’s built a wonderful reputation among the ostomate community.