Decorative image

Looking after your urostomy

After having a urostomy, you pass urine through an opening (stoma) in your tummy. Learn how to look after it. 

At the hospital

After surgery to remove your bladder, you might have a small hole called a stoma on your tummy (abdomen). Your urine now comes out through the stoma.

You will need to learn how to look after it before you leave the hospital. Your stoma nurse can show you how to do it. 

Stoma nurse

Stoma nurses are experienced in looking after stomas and teaching you how to do this yourself.

You might see your stoma nurse before the operation. They will show you the different types of urostomy bags you can use and they might give you a stoma kit to practice on first.  

After your operation, your stoma nurse might change your urostomy bags. This is until you can change them yourself. They can also explain you how to put thin tubes into the urostomy to drain out the urine (self catheterisation), if you need to do this. 

Before you leave the hospital, your stoma nurse will give you some urostomy bags to take home. They might also set up an ordering system for you to get the bags from your local pharmacy. Or they may give you a prescription card to take it to your GP with the details of all the equipment you need.

After you leave the hospital, your stoma nurse might visit you at home to make sure that you are coping. Or you may have a district nurse visit instead. Do ask for their help with any questions or difficulties you have. 

Types of urostomy bag

There are 2 main types of urostomy bag. A 1 piece system and a 2 piece system.

Your stoma nurse will help you to find out which system is best for you. The bags are very flat and do not smell or rustle as you move around.

Under ordinary clothes no one can tell you are wearing one. The bag can stay in place for a few days at a time. It has a tap at the bottom so you can empty it into the toilet.

The 1 piece system

The 1 piece system has the bag, seal and adhesive patch. It can last for 2 or 3 days.

Photograph of a one piece urostomy bag on an abdomen
Photograph of a one piece urostomy bag

The 2 piece system

The 2 piece system has a separate bag and adhesive wafer (flange).

The wafer is a soft, flat, plastic adhesive disc that sticks to the body. The bag clips onto the wafer. You can leave the wafer in place for up to 5 days and just change the bag. 

What you need

To fit a new bag, at first you need to cut a hole in the wafer or adhesive patch to fit your stoma. When your stoma has settled in size, you can get bags that are pre cut to fit.

The more accurate the fit, the less likely the bag is to leak. You get very good at this with practice. 

You need to have:

  • your new bag and wafer (if you use one)
  • a measuring guide
  • tissues or absorbent cloth
  • warm water and wipes
  • a disposal bag or newspaper
  • scissors
  • a small mirror for looking at your stoma

You may also need: 

  • barrier cream
  • adhesive paste (if you’re changing your wafer or one piece bag)

It’s helpful to keep everything that you need in a bag or in one place. That way, you won't be halfway through and realise something important is missing.

How to change your bag

Your stoma nurse will show you how to change your bag. They make sure you know how to do it before you leave the hospital.

Changing your bag can be difficult at first. With practice you start to learn what you need and what works best for you. It can also help if your partner or someone else close to you understands how to manage a urostomy. 

When changing your bag, you don't have to worry about keeping anything sterile (completely free of all germs). But you should be as hygienic as possible. You should:

  • wash your hands
  • get your new bag ready
  • cut a hole in the wafer to fit your stoma if necessary
  • drain your old bag
  • peel the bag off carefully
  • throw the bag away in your disposal bag or wrap it in newspaper
  • clean round your stoma with warm water and wipes
  • dry the skin thoroughly with tissues or absorbent cloth
  • if you use barrier cream, massage it in well or it might stop your bag sticking to your skin properly
  • check the size of your stoma with the measuring guide to make sure it hasn't changed (your stoma nurse will show you how to do this)
  • stick your new bag or wafer in place
  • make sure the tap of the bag is closed
  • put the old bag in the bin, well wrapped up (or your local authority may collect it)
  • wash your hands

Stoma appliances

Get support

Some organisations can give you advice and support. They can arrange for you to meet other people with urostomies and keep up to date with new ideas. Meeting someone who has been through what you are experiencing might help you to cope. They know what is important to tell and can answer your questions from first hand experience.

The Urostomy Association can arrange for you to meet with other people with urostomies. Members can visit you before and after your operation to support you and give advice on how to cope.

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available.
Last reviewed: 
21 May 2015
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th edition)

    L. Dougherty and S. Lister. Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • Cancer Principles and Practice of Oncology (10th edition) 

    V. DeVita and others. Wolters Kluwer, 2015

  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer

    The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.