Rectal irrigation (sometimes called anal irrigation or trans-anal irrigation) has been practiced for many hundreds of years. Over recent years it has been more widely used as a bowel management solution.
It simply involves instilling warm tap water into the rectum via the anus and then allowing the water to be expelled, thus emptying the colon.
Studies have shown that regular rectal irrigation can be an effective solution to prevent faecal incontinence and constipation. It can also reduce the amount of time spent on bowel management.
It is a very effective method of clearing the bowel and maintaining bowel function, and the method improves the quality of life, dignity and self esteem.
Rectal irrigation should be performed regularly (usually daily or every other day) to achieve full continence and prevent constipation.
Rectal irrigation provides a reliable bowel management option, it is easy, quick, effective and hygienic to use, allowing you to live life to the full and not worry about your bowels.
When using conservative methods of bowel management such as manual evacuation, only the distal part of the bowel is generally emptied (figure 1). When using rectal irrigation, the bowel has been shown to empty to the splenic flexure (figure 2).
Using warm water rectal irrigation can successfully empty the bowel so that a further irrigation does not have to take place for another 24-48 hours.
Studies have shown that using trans-anal irrigation is superior to using conservative bowel management methods for individuals with neurogenic bowel dysfunction, regarding long term symptoms and improved quality of life.