What is colostomy irrigation?

A colostomy is an opening in the colon that is brought to the outside of the abdomen so that waste empties through that hole into a bag, instead of going out the rectum and anus.

Colostomy irrigation is a way to regulate bowel movements by flushing and emptying the colon at a scheduled time. The process involves instilling water into the colon through the colostomy, or stoma, which stimulates the colon to empty. By repeating this process regularly – once a day or once every second day – the colon can be trained to empty with minimal spillage of stool in between irrigations. Colostomy irrigation also can help avoid constipation.

Colostomy irrigation is a personal decision. If you are a candidate, your doctor or a nurse who is specially trained to help people with colostomies will discuss this option with you.

Who is a candidate for colostomy irrigation?

Patients with permanent colostomies made in the descending or sigmoid portion of the colon and who had regular bowel function before having a colostomy are good candidates for irrigation. This is because their stools tend to be more formed. Colostomy irrigation may not be a successful method of regulation for persons with a history of irritable bowel or irregular bowel action. Irrigation may be cumbersome for persons with certain physical limitations, such as arthritis, visual impairment, paralysis, or palsy. Some persons find the procedure too time consuming or unpleasant. In these cases, wearing a pouch or bag and emptying that several times a day is a better method of colostomy care.