Useful Information

Colostomy Irrigation

What Is Irrigation?

Colostomy irrigation involves introducing a measured amount of water into the stoma in order to wash out the bowel contents in the lower part of the bowel and allows the colostomist to be free from any output for a period of time (usually between 24 & 48 hours) and therefore can be an alternative to wearing a pouch. This process can be carried out in the home once teaching from the Stoma Care Nurse has taken place.

Pros and Cons of Irrigation


  • Control is achieved over bowel function
  • Wind and odour are reduced
  • This can lead to being able to have a more varied diet
  • No worry of where to change the pouch when out and less to
    carry around
  • Helps reduce problems with leakage and sore skin
  • Only a small appliance (stoma cap) is required to cover the stoma. This has a great advantage when doing physical activities.


  • Irrigation can take up to an hour to perform and it needs to be on a regular basis (sometimes everyday, usually every other day at the same time)
  • Occasionally some people experience leakage in between irrigating
  • This would need to continue even when on holiday
  • Some people find it an unnatural process

Who Can Irrigate?

A colostomist should be assessed for suitability by the Stoma Care Nurse and the Surgeon or GP’s opinion should be sought.

Colostomists who are suitable for irrigation are those who;

  • Have the motivation and the time
  • Have a fairly regular and thick output

Can all Colostomists Irrigate?

  • Each colostomist should be individually assessed for their suitability to irrigate.
  • Colotomists who have a history of the following should not irrigate;
    • Renal or cardiac problems
    • Inflammatory bowel disease, diverticular or Crohn’s disease
    • Parastomal hernia, prolapse, stenosis
  • Colostomists who would not be so suitable for irrigation are;
    • Those who are unable to keep a regular time slot for it
    • Those receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy
    • People with physical problems such as poor eye sight or poor manual dexterity
    • People who have a more liquid output

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