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Colostomy Irrigation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

What do I need to know about colostomy irrigation?

Colostomy irrigation is a procedure you use to empty your bowel by putting liquid into your stoma. Irrigation allows you to time your bowel movements. Your bowel movements need to be regular and free of problems before you can use a stoma cap and irrigation. Schedule regular times to irrigate your colostomy.

How do I irrigate my colostomy?

An ostomy nurse or specialist will teach you how to irrigate your colostomy. Below are some general steps:

  • Gather your supplies. You will need a plastic irrigating container with a long tube and a cone to put water into your colostomy. You will also need an irrigation sleeve that will direct the output into the toilet. You will need an adjustable belt to attach the irrigation sleeve and a tail closure for the end of the sleeve.
  • Choose the same time every day to irrigate. This will help decrease problems with your colostomy.
  • Know how much liquid to use. Fill the irrigating container with about 16 to 50 ounces (500 to 1,500 mL) of lukewarm water. The water should not be cold or hot. Ask how much water you will need. Hang the irrigation container so that it is level with your shoulder. Sit up straight on the toilet or on a chair next to the toilet.
  • Attach the irrigation sleeve to your stoma. Take the adjustable belt and attach it to the irrigation sleeve. Place the belt around your waist and place the sleeve over your stoma. Place the end of the irrigation sleeve into the toilet bowl.
  • Release air bubbles from the tubing. Release the clamp and allow a small amount of water to flow into the sleeve. Clamp the tubing again.
  • Moisten the end of the cone. Use water or a water-soluble lubricant.
  • Gently place the tip of the cone into your stoma. Make sure the fit is snug. Do not force the cone. Release the clamp on the tubing again. Allow the water to flow slowly into the stoma. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes. Keep the cone in place for another 10 seconds.
  • Remove the cone. Allow the output to drain into the irrigation sleeve for about 10 to 15 minutes. Dry the end of the irrigation sleeve. Clip the bottom of the sleeve to the top with a clasp, or close the end of the sleeve with the tail closure. It may take 30 to 45 minutes to drain. You may move around during this time. Empty the output from the sleeve into the toilet. Clean the area around the stoma with mild soap and water and pat dry.

When should I call my ostomy specialist or doctor?

  • You have a foul odor coming from your colostomy bag or stoma that lasts longer than a week.
  • Your skin around the stoma becomes red and irritated.
  • You have nausea, vomiting, pain, cramping, or bloating.
  • Your bowel movements change.
  • The size of your stoma changes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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