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Colon, Interrupted

Experiments With Ostomy Supplies

Or How Old Is Too Old To Use?

First starting out I was paranoid about running out of supplies so I stockpiled extras like I was preparing for a zombie apocalypse. A few weeks back, I was rooting around in the back of a closet I found some of these old supplies.  Unlike when I was first starting out, I have plenty of supplies and a couple of years experience in how much of each product I use in a month. In short, I’m no longer worried about running out (worried about a zombie apocalypse, that’s another story…), so I’m wondering what to do with all the extras.

I found out there are terrific organizations that provide ostomy supplies to people in need. Organizations like Osto Group and Friends of Ostomates Worldwide (USA),  and plenty of others findable through a quick web search. Before I sent anything off, I did a quick check and see that FOW USA doesn’t accept items past (or near) the expiration date.

Some of the items I have don’t have any expiration date so I need to find out how long they are expected to last before I donate them. I’m also wondering, if they are past the expiration date, are they still any good?  Time to experiment!

First test is for a ConvaTec pouch (reference number 404027, opaque drainable two-piece).  I compared the pouch (which is probably at least 5 years old) to the same version of the current pouch that I am still using. I found two noticeable differences.

ConvaTec drainable two-piece ostomy pouch comparison. Current version on the Left, with an approximately 5 year old version of the same model number, show to the Right.
ConvaTec two-piece ostomy pouch comparison. Current version on the Left, approximately 5 year old version of the same model number, show to the Right.

As you can see in the picture, the white “comfort” covering comes down a bit further on the old version. And while I don’t have any sort of micrometer or any tool to measure the thickness of the plastic used to construct the pouches, a simple “feel” test tells me the older pouch definitely feels thicker. I’ve never noticed a difference in failure or puncture rate in all the years of use, so if they went to a thinner plastic, perhaps it is now stronger than an equal thickness from years ago.

I tried wearing the old pouches with my current flange, and they fit just fine. I did this for several weeks and went through the pouches at the same rate as the new ones, with no noticeable weakness or surprise leakage. So test #1 shows you can use pouches that are 5 years old. I’m not so sure about test #2 that I am planning, the old flanges. The first box I opened gives me some doubts about the reliability of the adhesive properties after 5 years, as there are some visible air bubbles on the surface of the adhesive ring. I’ll have to try and find a slow weekend at home sometime to give those a try for the next test.

I’ll be donating the bulk of my extra supplies to one of the organizations (like the ones listed above). These organizations get ostomy supplies in the hands of people without insurance, or who have had unexpected life events that have destroyed their own supplies. They were there for ostomates who lost everything in tragedies like Katrina or Sandy Hook, or just for ostomates who  have a hard time affording the supplies they need. If you have extras, or if you’ve changed products or sizes, consider donating what you don’t need.

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