OSTOMY BAG RUPTURE AT 35,000 FEET

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On his first flight following a colostomy for ulcerative colitis, my patient noted distension of his ostomy bag as his plane reached its cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. He barely made it to the rest room before his bag burst. How can he avoid bag rupture on future flights?
—Joshua Grossman, MD, Johnson City, Tenn.

The Merck Manual of Medical Information—Second Home Edition Online Version offers the following advice regarding specific medical conditions and travel: “People with a colostomy should wear a large bag or bring extra supplies, because fecal output may increase with expansion of intestinal gas during flight. Because gas expands in flight, water should be substituted for air in devices secured by air-filled cuffs or balloons” (www.merck.com/mmhe. Accessed March 12, 2008). Additionally, some ostomy products contain valves/filters to allow for the release of excess gas, and these can be useful as well.
—Daniel G. Tobin, MD (114-11)

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