What is urostomy?

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Urostomy: Overview

A urostomy is a procedure to create an opening in the belly that allows urine to flow to the outside of the body. It is usually done during a surgery to remove a diseased or damaged bladder. The urostomy creates an opening called a stoma.

There are two kinds of urostomies.

  • A standard urostomy, also called an ileal conduit, uses a piece of your small intestine to make a tube. The doctor connects one end of the tube to a stoma that's made in your belly. The other end attaches to the two ducts (ureters) that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The urine passes through the tube and out through the stoma. There is no muscle around the stoma. This means that you can't control when urine passes out of your body. A plastic pouch (ostomy pouch) surrounds the stoma. This pouch collects the urine. The pouch is attached to your skin.
  • A continent reservoir uses a piece of your bowel to make a storage pouch inside your body. It acts like a new bladder. The storage pouch connects your ureters to the stoma in your belly. A valve in the pouch stops urine from flowing out. You will learn to recognize how it feels when the pouch is full. You put a thin plastic tube called a catheter through the stoma to let out the urine.

Learning how to care for your urostomy will help you live comfortably with it. An ostomy nurse is a great support. They will help you learn to manage your urostomy so you can get back to a normal life. You'll learn how a pouch system works and how to replace your urostomy pouch. Your nurse will also give you tips on how to treat and prevent common problems, such as irritated skin.

It takes time to adjust to having a urostomy. But with time, you'll be able to work and enjoy physical activities, including sex.


A urostomy is an opening in the abdomen created by a surgical procedure (a radical cystectomy) that allows urine to flow to the outside of the body where it can be collected into a bag. It is done when the bladder is either not functioning or has to be removed.

Common reasons for a urostomy include having bladder cancer, a spinal cord injury, or a birth defect such as spina bifida.

How do you care for a urostomy?

Understanding how to care for your ostomy will help you live comfortably with it. An ostomy nurse is a great support. The nurse will help you learn to manage your ostomy so you can get back to a normal life. This will include learning how a pouch system works and how to replace your ostomy pouch. Your nurse will also give you tips on how to treat and prevent common problems, such as irritated skin.

When you have an ostomy, urine leaves your body through the stoma instead of the urethra. Since there is no muscle around the stoma, you aren't able to control when urine passes out of your body. An odor-proof plastic pouch (ostomy pouch) surrounds the stoma to collect the urine and is held to your skin with an adhesive. Pouching systems may be one-piece or two-piece.

  • In a two-piece system, the pouch and barrier (sometimes called a flange or wafer) are separate. The pouch contains a closing ring that attaches it to the barrier. This is generally a snap ring, similar to those found on food storage containers. The barrier fits around the stoma and sticks to your skin.
  • In a one-piece system, the pouch and barrier are a single unit.

Both two-piece and one-piece pouches can be either drainable or closed. These systems also contain a special valve or spout that adapts either to a leg bag or to a night drain tube connected to a special drainable bag or bottle. Here's how to empty or replace your urostomy pouch:

Drainable pouch.

Place toilet paper in the bowl to prevent splashing. Sit down with the pouch between your legs. The pouch is held shut with a clip system. Just unclip it and allow its contents to fall into the toilet. Clean the end of the pouch with toilet paper and reclip it.

Closed pouch.

Unsnap the pouch from the barrier and dispose of it. Do not flush it down the toilet. Putting the pouch in a ziplock bag reduces odor. You then need to attach a new pouch.

Replacing your ostomy pouch

If you have a drainable pouch, you usually need to replace it every 4 to 7 days or whenever there is a leak in the pouch or itching or burning under the barrier. If you have a closed pouch, replace it when it is one-third to one-half full.

  1. Prepare the new pouch and barrier. Cut an opening in the new barrier slightly larger than the stoma. You may also have a precut barrier. If you have a two-piece system, snap the pouch to the barrier. Remove the paper backing from the barrier so that the adhesive is exposed. You may need to put some skin barrier paste on the barrier if it does not stick well to your skin.
  2. Remove the old pouch and barrier. Remove your old pouch by peeling away the barrier and gently lifting the pouch while pressing down on the skin below the pouch. Be sure not to irritate the skin as you remove the barrier and pouch. If the pouch sticks and is hard to remove, use an adhesive remover underneath the barrier. Dispose of the old pouch and barrier.
  3. Clean your skin. Clean the skin and stoma with a wet washcloth or wipe. You may use soap. If you do, rinse well. Allow your skin to dry, and check your skin and stoma for signs of irritation. See the section below on treating skin irritation.
  4. Measure your stoma, if needed. After your surgery, the size of your stoma may change. Your doctor may want you to measure it and will give you a measurement guide to help you do this.
  5. Put on the new pouch. Position the opening in the barrier around the stoma, and apply the sticky side to the skin. Press down until all edges are sealed. If your pouch is open-ended, attach the clip.

Treating irritated skin

If the skin under your pouch is red, irritated, or itchy, you need to treat your skin. Follow these steps:

  1. Gently remove the pouch.
  2. Clean the skin under the pouch with a wet washcloth.
  3. Dry the skin.
  4. Sprinkle ostomy protective powder on the skin and then blot it off.
  5. Reattach or replace the pouch.

Ostomy accessories

Ostomy accessories may include:

  • Curved (convex) barriers, which better conform to some bellies.
  • Ostomy belts, which help support the pouch.
  • Pouch covers, which conceal the pouch.
  • Skin barrier paste, which fills in folds or skin irregularities of the belly to form a better seal.
  • Skin wipes or powders, which protect the skin under the barrier and around the stoma.
  • Tape, which supports the barrier and is used for waterproofing.
  • Tape remover, which cleans adhesive off the skin.

What can you expect as you recover from a urostomy?

It takes time to adjust to having a urostomy. But with time after surgery, you will be able to work, take part in sports and physical activities, be intimate with your partner, and resume your social life. Wound, ostomy, and continence nurses (WOCNs) are available in some medical centers. They can help you learn how to care for your ostomy. Talk with your surgeon about meeting with an ostomy nurse after your surgery.

Right after your surgery, activities such as driving and lifting will be restricted to allow the stoma to heal. After 2 to 3 weeks, you should be able to do your normal activities. With your pouch in place, you can still swim, hike, camp, and play tennis. Contact sports may injure the stoma or cause the pouch to slip. But check with your doctor about how to be safe while being active, whether you play sports or do your exercise routine.

As your strength returns, you will likely be able to go back to work. The only types of work that you may not be able to perform are those that require heavy lifting or physical contact. Talk with your doctor to learn about any work limits you may need to know about.

Most people don't have to limit their diet. You can probably enjoy foods as you did before. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids each day to help reduce the chance of kidney infection.

A urostomy can affect a man's ability to have sex (usually just for a short time). Usually a woman's sexual ability isn't affected. If you are concerned about sex, your body image, and what others think, talk to your doctor, counselor, or a therapist. They can help you cope with problems concerning intimacy or your self-image.

You will probably be able to wear much of your same clothing. You'll want to avoid tight clothes that might cause problems with the drainage tube. And wearing looser pants can make it easier to conceal the pouch. Cotton knit or stretch underpants can provide support and keep the pouch secure. Your ostomy nurse will be able to help you with more clothing ideas.

You can still travel. Empty or change your ostomy pouch before you start your trip. When you travel by plane, bring extra ostomy supplies in your carry-on baggage, not your checked bags. If you travel by car, store your supplies in a cool place.

Urostomy: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as red streaks or pus around your stoma.
  • Little or no urine is leaving your body.
  • Your stoma turns pale or dark purple.
  • Your stoma swells or bleeds.
  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. For example:
    • You have blood or pus in your urine.
    • You have pain in your back just below your rib cage. This is called flank pain.
    • You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
    • You have groin or belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

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