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The Beginner’s Guide to Stoma Irrigation

Colostomy irrigation, shortened to stoma irrigation, is a process that allows essentially manual bowel movements that don’t pass through your rectum. Instead, you empty the contents of your large intestine via a stoma pouch using specialized equipment and upwards of 500 to 1500 mL of warm water. The colostomy procedure beforehand brings an opening of the colon to the surface, allowing scheduled system flushes if one chooses to opt for irrigation.

But what else goes into stoma irrigation? And who are the best people to utilize it? Here are a few summary explanations that may help if you’re researching it.

Stoma Irrigation and Perseverance

Due to the nature of manually irrigating your colon, it’s important to be patient when establishing a schedule for yourself. The whole process may take an hour, and it requires that you do it about the same time every day. When you keep that in mind, cutting out a piece of time during the day to flush your system can become as routine as making a cup of coffee.

Some advantages to consider if stoma irrigation is worth the time and effort include—but are not limited to—better bowel control, assistance with regulating gas, the versatility of pouches or caps, and enjoying a less rigid diet. These benefits can culminate in having more confidence both out in public or with friends and family.

One drawback is that of understanding stoma irrigation as a commitment that takes time. Additionally, if an emergency or illness happens, you may need to pause your irrigation schedule.

Who Can or Can’t Use Stoma Irrigation?

Sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s Disease are not good candidates for stoma irrigation as well as anyone who suffers from regular stomach inflammation or diarrhea. People suffering from these would have unsuccessful irrigations and potential complications.

Additionally, due to the risk of fluid absorption complications, those with heart or kidney disease should consider carefully before giving medical consent. Those going through chemotherapy would not be eligible, either.

On the other hand, those who have solid or semi-solid stools are ideal candidates. Remember, though, that decent eyesight and dexterity are a must because of the equipment needed to perform irrigations if no one is there to help you regularly. Those who have had permanent colostomies in their colon’s descending area, which had previously experienced regular bowel movements, are the ideal. About 2 to 3 months post stoma surgery is generally when you’d begin irrigating safely.

The complications that could arise, such as stomach pain when inserting fluids, difficulty using the equipment, or poor irrigation due to dehydration, are also important factors to keep in mind. While these may be rare, it’s important to know exactly what you’d be signing up for.

The Bottom Line

Stoma irrigation is not for everyone; it’s a personal decision that should be discussed with your care provider or stoma care nurse. It’s important to weigh your options, evaluate your situation and needs, and then make an informed and well-researched decision.

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