Different Types of Ostomy Wafers and Barriers

October 11,2022 |
Doctor showing a woman ostomy products on an iPad.

An ostomy is a lifesaving procedure that’s performed in order to divert waste products away from a damaged or diseased portion of your digestive system or urinary tract. During the operation, a surgeon will create a small hole in your abdominal wall, where a piece of your ureter or intestines will be secured. This results in a stoma, which is the opening that your ostomy pouch will connect to. There are several different components, varieties, brands, and types of ostomy supplies available to choose from. Most people have personal preferences for each component, but getting to find something that works for you can be an uphill battle, especially in regard to ostomy wafers. To learn more about your options, here we’ll discuss some of the different types of ostomy wafers and barriers available.


What is an Ostomy Wafer or Barrier?

An ostomy wafer and a barrier are the same thing. They’re interchangeable terms that are used to describe the adhesive component of an ostomy pouch. This is how the pouching system will be connected to your skin. One side adheres to the peristomal skin, while the other is attached to the ostomy pouch itself. Ostomy wafers have a hole in their center to accommodate the stoma and it helps protect the surrounding skin from output. Other terms that are commonly used for ostomy barriers include flange, device, and appliance.

The Importance of Finding the Right Ostomy Barrier

Since ostomy barriers will surround your stoma, it’s important to find one that fits well. Your doctor will give you more information regarding how to properly size your stoma, which is one of the most important aspects of long-term ostomy care. When you utilize ill-fitting ostomy wafers, you may experience skin irritation, stoma complications, or even ostomy leaks. If you have any questions regarding your ostomy wafers, always discuss them with your doctor. You can also ask about trying a few different samples to test out your options prior to making a bulk order. Choosing the right ostomy bag is an important factor in comfort and durability.

Should You Get a One-Piece or Two-Piece Ostomy System?

Another consideration to make when choosing your ostomy barrier is whether or not you will be using a one-piece ostomy system or a two-piece system. A one-piece ostomy system combines the wafer and the ostomy pouch into one cohesive product. This is a good option if you have low stoma output and don’t need to change your pouch as frequently, such as individuals with a urostomy and a drainable bag.

A two-piece ostomy system is more commonly used for individuals with a colostomy or ileostomy. In these systems, the skin barrier and the pouch are completely separate. This means that you’ll keep the barrier or wafer in place for longer periods of time and simply remove the pouch from the area it connects. This is optimal for individuals who need to change their pouch several times throughout the day. It also makes things easier when you’re pouching in difficult situations. You can explore your options with your ostomy nurse to find something that works for you.


Different Types of Ostomy Wafers Available

After you’ve decided which type of ostomy pouching system you would prefer, you’ll need to choose between a few different types of ostomy wafers. There are two main categories that have been available in the past, but new technology has allowed for the adaptation of a more modern solution. The following provides you with more information about each different type of ostomy wafer.

Pre-Cut Ostomy Barriers

Pre-cut ostomy wafers are products created to fit a variety of stoma sizes. You will order the size that’s meant for your stoma, and the barriers come ready to be adhered to your skin. They’re manufactured with the most common sizes of stomas that ostomates experience and tend to be circular in shape. These are a good option for individuals that have symmetrical stomas. One reason that many ostomates prefer pre-cut barriers is because they don’t need to adjust them before use. You should also wait to use these types of ostomy wafers until your stoma has completely healed. During the first few months following your surgery, it will likely change in shape and size, so using a pre-cut option may cause some discomfort if there’s still swelling present.

Cut-to-Fit Ostomy Wafers

An alternative option is to use cut-to-fit ostomy wafers. These can be personalized to your specific stoma shape and size, making them more adaptable to individual differences. The wafer will come with varying sizes printed on the surface, so you can use these as a guide after you’ve measured your stoma. However, you can cut out whatever shape best accommodates your body, which is why they’re a great option for ostomates with more irregular stoma shapes. These can also be used if your stoma is perfectly round and circular. However, if you plan to fly with an ostomy, try to cut these out ahead of time as there are restrictions for scissors in carry-on luggage.

To make this process easier, Byram Healthcare offers a Custom Cutting Program where we cut the center opening of a barrier to accommodate the exact shape and size of your stoma. This provides accurate sizing and proper fit to help you spend less time on changing your ostomy pouch, potentially increase wear time, and helps decrease leakage issues or other skin irritation. It’s also a great option for individuals who have dexterity issues. We recommend utilizing our Custom Cutting Program about six to eight weeks after your ostomy surgery, or once your stoma has shrunk and stabilized in size.

Moldable Technology Ostomy Barriers

Finally, new technology has allowed for moldable ostomy barriers to become a reality. This is a convenient alternative that mirrors many of the benefits of cut-to-fit wafers. You can mold the ostomy barrier to the shape of your stoma, thus providing you with an outline for the perfect fit. You’ll still need to cut around the molded outline, but this allows you to increase the accuracy of your wafer, thus providing you with a stronger seal.

Ostomy wafers will also have options as either a flat skin barrier or a convex skin barrier. This refers to the differences in shape, as some ostomates may have stoma protrusions while others have flatter stomas. If your stoma protrudes about a quarter inch or more from your abdominal skin, you should utilize a flat wafer. These offer increased flexibility that help contour to individual bodies and various shapes of stomas. They’re the most commonly used wafer shape for many ostomates. However, if your stoma lies flat with your skin, retracts a bit, or is less than a quarter of an inch from protrusion, using a convex skin barrier is a better option. Although these don’t offer the same degree of flexibility as flat wafers, they’ll be more effective at guiding the drainage from your stoma into your ostomy pouching system without leaks.

Many ostomy wafers can be worn without changing for about one to seven days. This will depend on certain factors, such as output, activity level, and your stoma. On average, most ostomates tend to wear the same barrier for about three to five days without any problems. However, changing them sooner rather than later will give you a stronger peace of mind about leaks. There are also some options for extended wear products, depending on the manufacturer. These are designed to handle more output or higher perspiration, so they’re a good option for individuals who are active, living in hot environments, or tend to sweat a lot throughout the day.

Regardless of which type of ostomy wafer you choose, it’s important to take care of your stoma and properly clean your peristomal skin. To improve your overall quality of life, you should take the time to find an ostomy pouching system and supporting supplies that you’re comfortable with. Although they may seem like a small part of the system, ostomy wafers and barriers are one of the most important features to increase comfort. At Byram Healthcare, we have a variety of skin barriers from leading manufacturers to help you find something that works for your lifestyle. We’re committed to helping improve the life of people living with an ostomy and offer discrete, nationwide shipping. We carry a wide range of ostomy supplies and support systems alongside educational material as needed. Browse our product guide and get started on becoming a new customer today.