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What Is an Ostomy Wafer?

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  • Written By: T. Broderick
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 04 August 2014
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An ostomy wafer is a piece of medical equipment that protects the skin around an ostomy site. It is necessary, as an ostomy site is responsible for eliminating fecal matter from the body after a patient has undergone a colostomy. The wafers act as a gasket that sticks to the skin on one side and attaches to the colostomy bag on the other. An ostomy wafer lasts roughly a week before needing to be replaced; new models are customizable to a patient's stoma.

After a colostomy, a patient requires a colostomy bag to act as a collection pouch for solid waste. The ostomy wafer creates a seal between the body and colostomy bag. An ostomy wafer has two purposes: to securely affix the colostomy bag and ensure that no solid waste comes into contact with the patient's skin. The later is especially important, as exposure to fecal matter could cause skin irritation and possible infection at the ostomy site.

Besides these traits, an ostomy wafer must have other characteristics in order to properly function. One is flexibility; the water must be able to move with the body when a patient flexes his or her abdomen. Another feature is the ability to easily remove the wafer; this reduces the amount of time necessary for a patient to replace it. As fecal matter contains numerous enzymes that can weaken the structural integrity of some sealants and plastics, an ostomy wafer must also be erosion-resistant.

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To work properly, an ostomy wafer must fit over a patient's stoma, a short length of large intestine that protrudes from the abdomen. As stoma size varies between patients, manufactures of ostomy wafers have devised different methods of meeting this challenge. The first option for patients is to buy wafers of varying sizes until they find one that fits over their stoma. A second option is to buy a single-size wafer that has a template so that a patient can cut it out to form a properly-sized hole. For many years, these two types of wafers were the only options available.

A new type of ostomy wafer has come onto the market that works with the majority of adult patients. After a patient places the wafer over the stoma site, he or she shapes the wafer over the stoma; afterwards, the wafer does not revert to its original shape. In effect, patients are able to create a custom-made wafer for their stomas.

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