How Does a Colostomy Bag Work?

By Chris Sherwood


According to the Center for Disease Control, colorectal cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in the United States. Approximately 100,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year, and about the same number of people pass away from the disease. When cancer of the colon or rectum is suspected, one of the first procedures that is done is called a colonoscopy. This allows the medical professional to search the colon for suspicious growths or lumps. If some are found, a colostomy may be performed. After the surgery, a bag may be inserted called a colostomy bag.


A colostomy is a surgery that attaches part of the colon to an abdominal wall. When part of the colon is removed, or if part of the colon is temporarily disabled because of a surgery, a colostomy ensures that waste can still be removed from the body. This is done by surgically entering the body and rerouting the colon to a stoma in the abdominal wall.


A stoma is a surgical hole that is created in the abdominal wall. The colon is surgically routed to the stoma to allow feces to exit the body though the abdomen. The stoma allows this to occur without causing infection of the body by contact with the feces. However, infection sometimes can still occur. Once the feces exits the body, it is collected in a colostomy bag.

Colostomy Bag

The colostomy bag (widely known as an ostomy bag, as it's used for any ostomy procedure) works by catching the feces and holding it until the bag can be removed and replaced. The colostomy bag allows those recovering from surgery of the colon to be able to live a semi-normal life. The bag is like a pouch, and can be hidden under clothing. Once the bag is full, the feces are emptied, and the bag replaced.

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