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How to irrigate the colon

With sigmoid or descending colostomies, you may be able to skip wearing an ostomy pouch and use the irrigation method instead.

When using the irrigation method, you regularly irrigate (flush out with water) the colon and wear a cap over the stoma. Irrigation cleans stool out of the colon through the stoma. You should always check with your health care provider first to make sure that this option is right for you.


To irrigate the colon, you’ll need the right equipment, including the following:

  • An irrigation bag filled with room temperature water; water that is too cold can cause cramping, while water that is too hot can cause burns. Because the stoma has no pain sensors, it's vital that you verify the water temperature first; talk to your doctor or WOC (Wound Ostomy Continence) nurse about the optimal temperature.
  • A place to hook the water bag so that it's above the body.
  • A lubricated stoma cone that's connected to the irrigation bag through a tube.
  • Irrigation sleeve that captures the flushed output from the colon; these are often reusable.


How often you irrigate depends on your personal circumstances and lifestyle.

Some people who wish to irrigate, rather than wear an ostomy pouch, irrigate once a day as part of their ostomy care, while others irrigate every other day. Each situation is unique and depends upon the person's metabolism and what he or she had to eat or drink in the past 24-48 hours. Some people prefer to irrigate more frequently to gain maximum control over their output. Typically, irrigation takes about one hour each time it is done.


Related Articles:
Deciding on an ostomy pouching system
Ostomy care at work
Preventing ostomy pouch leaks