Most children with spina bifida, especially when they are younger, rely on their parents to help them empty their bowels. Traditional methods to prevent bowel leakage and constipation include change of diet, suppositories, enemas, constipates, stool softeners and laxatives.
Some children, however, find these methods of treating the bowels ineffective, as you cannot schedule when you will have a bowel movement, which often results in bowel accidents.
Bowel irrigation is one type of bowel care routine that ensures bowel movements are both regular and predictable. If performed regularly, it will make your child feel more comfortable and prevent problems such as bowel leakage and constipation.
What exactly is bowel irrigation?
Bowel irrigation is when water is introduced into the bowel via the rectum, using a rectal catheter. The water stimulates the bowel and flushes out the stool. The process takes about 30–45 minutes. After irrigating, the lower part of the bowel is empty. Bowel irrigation is performed every 1 to 2 days.
It is important to do it regularly as:
- Regular irrigation prevents bowel accidents, simply because the lower bowel is empty of stool
- Regular irrigation prevents chronic constipation as it encourages bowel movements, meaning they become regular
Until your child learns how to irrigate themselves, you need to make sure that it is done correctly and safely. Find a good, regular routine that works and encourage your child to take an interest. They will have to do it themselves when they are older.
It can be a good idea to keep track of your child’s progress. For inspiration, why not download and print a the Bowel Emptying Diary (pdf, 1MB).
Coloplast offers a bowel irrigation system called Peristeen®.