• colostomy;
  • irrigation;
  • nursing;
  • quality of life;
  • stomatherapy

Aims and objectives.  The aim of this study was to document our results with colostomy irrigation with particular emphasis on the possible contribution of irrigation on quality of life.

Background.  Colostomy irrigation is a useful method of achieving faecal continence in selected conditions, and may improve quality of life. When successful, irrigation offers a regular, predictable elimination pattern and only a small covering is needed for security between irrigations.

Methods.  The digestive disease quality of life questionnaire-15 (DDQ-15) and Short Form-36 were used to analyse quality of life before and 12 months after stomatherapy in a series of 25 irrigating patients with permanent end colostomies. During the same time period, 10 similar patients with left-end colostomies who also received counselling but did not consent to colostomy irrigation were also analysed for comparison.

Results.  Colostomy irrigation was found to be effective for achieving faecal continence in selected patients with end colostomies with no complications or significant side-effects, The digestive disease quality of life questionnaire-15 score improved significantly in both groups after stomatherapy (P < 0.0001 and P = 0.009 in the irrigating and non-irrigating groups respectively). The poststomatherapy digestive disease quality of life questionnaire-15 score of the irrigating group was also significantly higher than that of the non-irrigating group (P = 0.039). Although none of the poststomatherapy item scales of Short Form-36 differed significantly between the two groups, stomatherapy with CI resulted in significant improvements in role limitation due to physical problems, social functioning, role limitation due to emotional problems, general mental health, vitality and bodily pain (P < 0.05 for all comparisons). On the contrary, the non-irrigating patient group showed significant improvements only in social functioning and general mental health.

Conclusion.  Our findings suggest that colostomy irrigation can be a useful method of achieving faecal continence in selected conditions, it is safe, and it may help improve many aspects of quality of life.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Colostomy irrigation is free from complications and significant side-effects, and it may serve as a useful adjunct to conventional stomatherapy. Therefore, the enterostomal therapy nurse should assess the appropriateness of routine irrigation as a method of stoma management for patients with left-end colostomy.