Colostomy Irrigation

A colostomy is a surgically-created opening in the stomach, called a stoma, that brings a piece of the colon to the outside of the body. This provides a new path for poop and gas to leave the body after a surgeon removes part of the colon or rectum because of disease or injury.

Colostomy irrigation is a way to manage bowel movements by emptying the colon at a scheduled time. The process involves putting water into the colon through the stoma. This causes the colon to empty.

By repeating this process regularly -- once a day or once every second day -- you can train your colon to empty without spilling waste in between irrigation. Colostomy irrigation also can help you avoid constipation.

Should you do it? That’s a personal decision. If you are a candidate (see below), your doctor or a nurse who is specially trained to help people with colostomies, will discuss this option with you while you are still in the hospital after your surgery.

Can I Do It?

People with permanent colostomies and whose opening is in the descending or sigmoid portion of the colon are good candidates for irrigation. This is because their stools tend to be more formed.

People with irritable bowel syndrome, stomal problems, or stomas in the ascending or transverse parts of the colon are less likely to have success with irrigation. So it’s not a good option for them.

When Should I Do It?

It’s most effective when done about an hour after a meal, which is when the colon is most likely to be full.

You can do it once a day or once every other day, depending on your preference and ability to control your bowel movements.

It generally takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the bowel to become regulated with irrigation. It helps to set a routine and irrigate at the same time each day.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on July 27, 2019



American Cancer Society: "What Is a Colostomy?"

United Ostomy Associations of America: "Colostomy Facts."


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