Stoma Basics

Resource and Education Materials

The Stoma

Following surgery, and for as long as the patient has a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy, effluent (stool or urine) will exit the body through the stoma and a system for  collection and protection of the surrounding skin is required. These are ostomy appliance systems. No two stomas are exactly alike. Each stoma, depending upon it's size and shape, presents its own unique challenges for the caregiver and patient. This section will give you an overview of how to identify which type of stoma your patient has and how to best care for it.

All liquid or semi-liquid effluent can damage skin when soilage remains in contact with skin over time. Urine and ileostomy drainage in particular since it has a high content of digestive enzymes are particulary caustic and can irritate and denude peristomal skin more quickly than solid waste. The use of a skin barrier that fits the stoma snugly and a good collection pouch is essential to maintaining healthy peristomal skin.

Stomas have no nerve endings and do not transmit pain. They are, however, rich with blood vessles and may bleed slightly if rubbed or irritated.

Different Stoma Types:

  • Protruding Stoma
  • Flush Stoma
  • Retracted Stoma

Healthy skin

Ideally, during the ostomy procedure, the surgeon will create a stoma that protrudes beyond the skin of the abdomen (protruding stoma). This allows the skin barrier to be applied close to and around the outer edges of the stoma. For a patient with a protruding stoma, the goal is to help achieve a leak-proof seal at the stoma edge. This protects peristomal skin from effluent seeping underneath the skin barrier at the stoma edge and onto the peristomal skin.

While the protruding stoma is preferred and easiest to care for, some stomas are more difficult to manage. Two of these are a flush stoma and a retracted stoma.

Management Goal:
Leakproof adherence that protects peristomal skin from the damaging effects of urine and stool utilizing an appropriate pouching system that adequately contains and collects the volume and type of stomal output.


Unlike a protruding stoma, a flush stoma does not protrude beyond the skin of the abdomen. A flush stoma, as the name suggests, is flush with the skin covering the abdomen. Flush stomas may be the result of a surgeon's chosen technique, or may occur over time, even though a protruding stoma was originally created.

A flush stoma may require the use of a convex skin barrier. The convex shape of the barrier applies gentle pressure around the stoma edge, increasing the degree of stoma protrusion.

Management Goal:
Elimination of uneven skin surfaces to create a level surface onto which a convex pouching system may adhere and press into the surface area around the stoma to increase the degree of stomal protrusion.


A retracted stoma is recessed to slightly below the skin surface. Recessed stomas can occur over time due to internal surgical scarring, weight fluctuations, and other unforeseen events.

Like the flush stoma, a retracted stoma calls for the use of a convex skin barrier. This will assist in achieving greater stomal protrusiton and make adherence and conformity easier to achieve.

Management Goal:
Elimination of uneven skin surfaces to create a level surface onto which a convex pouching system may adhere and press into the surface area around the stoma to increase the degree of stomal protrusion.

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Accessory Tips

The use of ostomy accessories can make meeting the special needs of each one of your patients living with an ostomy easier. Here are some helpful tips about the accessory products from ConvaTec.

  • Stomahesive® Paste
  • Stomahesive® Protective Powder

Use Stomahesive® Paste as a caulking device to improve skin barrier seal around the stoma.

Appropriate Application:
Apply a thin ring of paste on the back of the skin barrier around the hole. Do not spread the paste. Wait one minute before applying the skin barrier.




For external use only. Do not apply into an open wound or skin ulcer.

Use Stomahesive® Powder when you have broken down and denuded skin. It helps increase wear time by absorbing moisture on denuded peristomal skin while helping prevent skin irritation. (Does not contain latex.)

Apply a light dusting around stoma or irritated skin


Pat over with protective barrier wipe



Managing Peristomal Skin Issues

At some point, you may encounter a patient who has unhealthy peristomal skin. Identifying the skin issue is the first step in management. Here are some common peristomal skin issues and some general information about them. Click on the links below to view information on Symptoms and Suggested Management Options.



Often caused by leakage, perspiration, antibiotic therapy, warm climates, broken skin.


  • Itchy, bumpy red skin.
  • Also, infection of vagina, armpit, mouth, or any area of skin folds (i.e., buttocks, groin).

Allergic Contact Dermatitis


Often caused by exposure to materials and compounds that irritate or sensitize the skin on contact (e.g., tape, skin barriers, soap, adhesives, powders, pastes, or pouch material).


  • Redness, itching, broken skin.
  • Yeast irritation in the area covered by a part of the pouching system.
  • A history of allergies.

Irritant Dermatitis


Inflammation of peristomal skin resulting from contact with stool or urine, usually from leakage under the pouching system.


  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Weeping areas of skin

Pseudoverrucous Lesions

(Hyperplasia commonly called PEH)


Often caused by chronic exposure of the skin to urine due to an excessively large opening in the skin barrier.


  • Pain
  • Wart-like, gray or purple-colored thickened areas next to the stoma
  • Frequent leakage or bleeding
  • White, sandy, or gritty granules on stoma or around base



An inflammation within a hair follicle caused by traumatic hair removal (e.g., "ripping" skin barrier from skin, shaving too closely, or excessive rubbing or cleaning of peristomal skin).


  • Reddened, pinpoint, or infected areas at the base of the hair follicles around the stoma.

Pressure Ulcer


An ulcer in the peristomal area caused by excessive pressure from an ostomy appliance belt, tight clothing, rigid faceplate, peristomal hernia, or work-related habits.


  • Pain or bleeding
  • Irregularly shaped ulcer
  • Pouch leakage
  • Decreased wear time



A common skin disorder that can occur underneath ostomy pouching systems.


  • Whitish scaly patches of various sizes
  • Itching
  • Broken skin

Pyoderma Gangrenosum


An inflammatory skin disease often seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease ( IBD ) such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.


  • Irregularly shaped, red, painful, bloody, infected ulcers, with red-to-purple rolled margins; appear on legs, buttocks, face, and peristomal area.

Caput Medusae


Refers to a bluish-purple discoloration of the skin caused by dilation of the cutaneous veins around the stoma (peristomal varices).


  • Blue/purple area surrounding the stoma that when blanched, displays irregular, small blood vessels.