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Practical Magic: Ostomy Bag Barrier Films — Fit for a Purpose

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Practical Magic: Ostomy Bag Barrier Films — Fit for a Purpose


Similar to appliances, cars, and technology, barrier films for ostomy applications are expected to be smarter. It’s no longer good enough for an ostomy bag simply to be strong; it now also needs to be discreet for the patient, cost-effective to produce, and ecofriendly. DeepakPrakash

Innovative research and development has led to the creation of complex composites — “intelligent” barrier films that can deliver structural integrity plus a host of added qualities and characteristics. Here are just a few ways in which device developers and patients with ostomies can benefit from these barrier film advances.

Quality of life. Each layer within the multilayer structure of the latest barrier film is designed to fulfill a critical purpose for patient comfort. An oxygen barrier layer helps control odor while other layers provide enhanced strength and secure bonding. A nonleaching antimicrobial agent on the film’s inner surface can kill bacteria quickly to help reduce odor. This agent remains active as the ostomy bag fills and will not enter the body via the stomach or leach into the bag contents. Through a unique combination of plastics, this barrier film also is quiet and flexible, even without the use of plasticizers to soften it. All of these qualities — softness as well as odor and noise control — are crucial to the patient’s quality of life.

A 2011 Patient Preference and Adherence1 article, “Quality of life in ostomy patients: a qualitative study,” explored the impact of ostomies across many dimensions of life. Participants in their study, as in those of other investigators, cited physical problems such as skin irritation, odor and noise from the ostomy appliance. The researchers discussed how some of these physical problems also can be stressful social problems; they noted some participants expressed a preference to avoid any family or school gatherings because of fear of offensive gas emission. A study by Mitchell et al2 that found “leakage, odor, and noise from the appliance were the primary sources of embarrassment identified by patients.”

The environment. The absence of plasticizers can help reduce the risk of health complications caused by di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), the main plasticizer for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is known to leach into ground water and can have a negative impact on human health. Barrier films for ostomy applications can be made from novel materials that are less damaging to the environment than traditional films. These films are free of PVC, polyvinylidene chloride (PVdC), and plasticizers.

Cost. In addition to being safer for the environment and human health, plasticizer-free barrier films have economic benefits. They are made from materials that can offer more cost-effective disposal of intermediate scrap. The films still can be sealed using common manufacturing techniques such as heat, heat impulse and RF welding, giving manufacturers the ability to choose the technique that is best for the final product. These factors are relevant as the health care industry strives to control costs amid tighter reimbursement rates for some ostomy products.

In conclusion, barrier films for ostomy applications have benefited from research-intensive advances in materials science. They have become more intelligent, imbued with complex layers, each offering specialized properties. They are fit for a purpose — that is, to meet the patient expectations for comfort, environmental sustainability and affordability.


Deepak Prakash is global director of marketing at Vancive Medical Technologies, an Avery Dennison business. He may be reached at



  1. Dabirian A, Yaghmaei F, Rassouli M, Tafreshi, M Z. Quality of life in ostomy patients: a qualitative study. Patient Pref Adherence. 2011;5:1–5.
  2. Mitchell KA, Rawl, SM, Schmidt CM, et al. Demographic, clinical, and quality of life variables related to embarrassment in veterans living with an intestinal stoma. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007;34:524–532.