Colostomy Irrigation involves instilling a volume of warm water into the bowel, via the stoma. It is essentially a water enema. The water stimulates the movement of the bowel and in doing so, the bowel expels the water and any stool that may be there.
Irrigation is only appropriate for you if you have a colostomy. If you have an ileostomy the output is too rich in electrolytes and fluid. It is also not appropriate if you have a urostomy.
Irrigation requires a surgeon’s referral letter to be provided to WAOA prior to commencement of irrigation.
There are a couple of factors that may mean you are not eligible for colostomy irrigation. If you have an advanced parastomal hernia, stomal prolapse, stenosis or narrowing of the stoma or if you have active bowel disease. This is partly why we ask for a referral to deem you appropriate.
If colostomy irrigation is right for you, it offers some advantages and stay tuned because at the end of this segment I will be having a discussion with an ostomate who irrigates.
Once your colon is trained and you are in a routine, the aim is to have no bowel movements between irrigations. You will then be free from wearing a continuous pouch throughout the day and you can consider wearing a mini bag or a stoma cap. A stoma cap is not designed to hold stool, it is a cover for the stoma, so you need to wait until your irrigation routine is well established before wearing a cap. It can take up to 6-8 weeks to train your colon to empty at the same time each day.
Another advantage is that there will be fewer pouch changes and less product use.
You may feel a sense of freedom that comes from having a regular bowel routine and just a mini bag or cap over your stoma.
There are a couple of options when it comes to irrigation kits. These are available on the Stoma Appliance Scheme and I will show you them in more detail when you come and see me.
The components of the kits are the same. They consist of:
Colostomy Irrigation should be performed daily initially, and at the same time each day (this is part of bowel training), and the colon will get used to putting out the stool at a certain time each day. It works best if performed about 1 hour after a meal because the colon is fullest and bowel movement is encouraged by the presence of food.
The process can take up to an hour, so consider the practical side of needing the bathroom for this time. A portion of the time will be for instilling the water, then the remaining time is spent waiting for the stool to be expelled.
I teach Colostomy Irrigation at WAOA on Mondays via a pre booked appointment. Please speak to your surgeon or medical professional to determine if it is right for you and then get in touch with me via email or phone at WAOA and I will arrange a time for you to come in. I generally like to see you for an initial discussion session and it is at the second appointment we perform your first irrigation. I will follow up with you and support you as you establish your routine.