Colostomy Irrigation

Those with a descending or sigmoid colostomy (ask your doctor or NSWOC) have another option for managing their colostomy. Irrigation is a water enema administered through the stoma, either once a day or every other day. The procedure takes about an hour and requires a minimum of specialized equipment. Irrigation works on the principle that if all or most of the large bowel is emptied at one time, it will take 24 – 48 hours for stool to output again. People who irrigate achieve reasonable control of their bowel movements, can be freed from wearing, and maintaining pouching systems and report a dramatic improvement in quality of life. In between irrigations, the stoma is inactive or produces minimal stool, allowing the individual to wear only ostomy caps, patches or mini-bags to protect the stoma. To be a candidate, you must have a reasonable amount of hand/eye coordination, the capacity to learn and remember a simple sequence of steps and the motivation to control your body. If your bowel habits were regular before surgery your chances are good that your remaining colon will respond well to irrigation. If bowel irritability was common before your surgery, or if you were prone to diarrhea, irrigation may not be much of an improvement for you. If you have a hernia, or serious heart or kidney disease, you should see your NSWOC or doctor.

Many Ostomy Canada Chapters have members who irrigate. They may be happy to act as mentors and coaches after you have discussed irrigation with your NSWOC or Doctor. Patients with a urostomy, ileostomy, or ascending colostomy cannot irrigate.

There is an international and informative Facebook group.

Disclaimer: Ostomy Canada Society does not manage nor control these Facebook posts. You should always consult with your NSWOC or doctor on such medical matters.