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Discharge Instructions: Irrigating Your Colostomy

Irrigating your colostomy is a way to keep yourself free from bowel movements for 24 to 48 hours. Many patients are put off by the procedure at first, but with practice it can become part of your routine. Advantages of irrigation are freedom of movement (after irrigation, you won’t need your colostomy pouch for a day), more comfort, less gas, less odor, less diarrhea, less constipation, and less skin irritation. Here's what you need to know about irrigating your colostomy. 

Outline of human figure showing parts of colon and small intestine including transverse colon across top of abdomen, descending colon on left, sigmoid colon, rectum, and anus. Inset of colon with stoma connecting sigmoid colon to outside of body. Inset of colon with stoma connecting descending colon to outside of body. Inset of colon with stoma connecting transverse colon to outside of body.

General Guidelines

Irrigate your colostomy the same time every day. The process takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Don't irrigate if you have diarrhea or you are not feeling well. Resume irrigation when your normal bowel function returns. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day, unless directed otherwise.

Gather Your Equipment

You can buy a special irrigation kit. Most kits contain the following:

  • Irrigation bag

  • Irrigation sleeve

  • Irrigation belt (used for a two-piece appliance)

  • Water-soluble lubricant such as KY gel

Preparing the Bag

  • Make sure the gauge on the irrigation bag tubing is turned off.

  • Fill the irrigation bag with a quart of tap water and hang the bag near the toilet in the bathroom. The bag should be at head level as you sit on a chair.

  • Make sure the water you use isn’t too cold or too warm. Lukewarm or slightly cool water works best for most patients.

  • Sit on a chair or stool beside the toilet.

Setting up the Sleeve

  • Remove your colostomy pouch and attach the irrigation sleeve.

  • Center the stoma in the ring of the irrigation sleeve. Fasten the belt (if you are using a kit with a belt).

  • Place the other end of the sleeve in the toilet.

  • Remove the air from the tubing by running a little water through the opening in the top of the sleeve.

Inserting the Cone and Draining the Stoma

  • Lubricate the cone tip.

  • Insert the cone tip gently into the stoma.

  • Open the gauge on the bag and let the water run into the colon.

  • Stop or slow the water if you become uncomfortable.

  • Press firmly on the cone to keep it in the stoma.

  • Once the water in the irrigation bag has emptied into your colon, remove the cone tip from the stoma and close the top of the irrigation sleeve.

  • Sit quietly with the sleeve in the toilet for 15 to 20 minutes until the stool and water have stopped draining.

  • Rinse the sleeve with water. Leave the sleeve in place and clamp it. You may now leave the bathroom. Most of the water and stool will return back into the sleeve in the next 20 to 30 minutes. Relax. Read or do other quiet activities while you wait for stool return.

Cleaning Up

  • When your stoma has stopped draining, return to the bathroom. Rinse and remove the sleeve.

  • Wash the skin around your stoma. Pat it dry and apply your stoma appliance.

  • Clean your sleeve and bag for future use.

Follow-Up

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by your health care team. 

 

 

 

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Excessive bleeding from your stoma or blood in your stool

  • A stoma that separates from the skin or looks like it's getting longer

  • Skin around stoma is bulging, appears red, or is warm to the touch

  • Change in the color of your stoma

  • No gas or stool produced

  • Fever above 101.5°F or shaking chills

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Increased pain

 

 

 
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