What is irrigation?
Irrigation is a method where water is introduced via the stoma to promote bowel movement, which will allow stools to leave the body. The aim is to have no stoma output between irrigations. Most people irrigate every other day. Irrigation is only indicated for left colostomates. Do not hesitate to contact your E.T. nurse for more information.
The benefits brought by the irrigation system are numerous:
- Facilitates control over stool discharges
- Stimulates the intestine to increase the movement of its contents (peristalsis).
- Results in a complete cleaning of the colon at a desired time up to 48 hours without irrigation by only using a mini stoma pouch (if needed) for better comfort, discretion and an overall better quality of life.
In the case of colostomates for whom treatment is hindered by skin folds, scar tissue..., irrigation is often the sole method of treatment.
How does it work?
The aim of the irrigation is to stimulate the intestine to increase the movement of the contents by rinsing it regularly. This happens thanks to a tissue stretch stimulus triggered by the flow of water. However, the time for performing irrigation should be adapted to match your habitual bowel movement prior to the surgery.
This will vary from one person to another. Sticking to a regular schedule is a critical factor in the success of the irrigation method. In the initial treatment stages, up to one hour should be set aside to complete the irrigation procedure. With regular use this period can be reduced. Irrigation should be performed, if possible, at the same time everyday.
Note: Before starting with irrigation, a physician/nurse consultancy is compulsory. It is recommended that the first irrigation should be carried out under the guidance of a trained physician/nurse to discuss the potential risks.
Even if you choose to use the irrigation method, keep in mind that it is still important for you to know how to use pouches.
Frequently asked questions about irrigation
Will I still need stoma pouches once irrigate?
In the beginning, it is recommended to continue using a mini pouch, since there will be an adjustment phase. If the bowel has already become accustomed to irrigation, stoma pouches are not needed. For care during the periods in which no emptying occurs, special stoma caps such as Iryfix® or B. Braun Petite are available.
Can I irrigate?
Irrigation can be performed by people who:
- have either a permanent left colostomy or a sigmoid colostomy and have a sufficient length of colon remaining
- have received their physician's / ET nurse's approval
- are both physically and mentally fit
- aren’t undergoing radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Where can I irrigate?
Irrigation should take place in the bathroom. In exceptional cases, it can also be performed in a bed due lack of mobility.
Do I have to spend the entire time in the bathroom?
After the irrigation has been performed and you are simply waiting for your bowel to empty, you may close the pouch and move about freely.
Should I irrigate at the same time each day?
Irrigation should always be performed at the same time everyday. Either in the morning or in the evening. Preferably based on the original behavior of the bowel prior to the stoma. A switch from morning to evening or vice versa should be avoided since the bowel becomes accustomed to a particular time of day.
How long does irrigation take?
Irrigation including the preparation and post-irrigation care with the necessary accessories, usually lasts 15-20 minutes. In the beginning, the actual emptying can last up to 45 minutes.
How long does it take for the bowel to get used to irrigation?
The bowel needs about 2-6 weeks to get used to a set routine. During this time, small stool discharges may continue to occur throughout the day despite irrigation. We recommend wearing mini pouches such Flexima® Mini or Flexima® Active Mini during this period.
Should I follow a specific diet?
Irrigation does not require a special diet. You may continue to eat all foods that your stoma can tolerate (see also FAQ of colostomates).