How to Take an Enema

An enema or clyster, is a fluid injected into the lower bowel by way of the rectum.

The most frequent use of an enema is as a cleansing enema (also called a soapsuds enema) which is given to relieve constipation or for bowel cleansing before a medical examination or procedure.

In standard medicine an enema may also be employed as a lower gastrointestinal series (also called a barium enema), to check diarrhea, as a vehicle for the administration of food, water or medicine, as a stimulant to the general system, as a local application and, more rarely, as a means of reducing temperature as treatment for encopresis, and as rehydration therapy (proctoclysis) in patients for whom intravenous therapy is not applicable.

Enemas have been used as part of some alternative health therapies. They are also used to administer certain medical or recreational drugs and for other purposes.

Many self-given enemas used at home are the packaged, disposable, buffered sodium phosphate solutions in single-use bottles sold under a variety of brand names, or in generic formats. These units come with a lubricated nozzle attached to the top of the container. Some enemas are administered using so-called disposable bags connected to disposable tubing (despite the names, such units can commonly be used for many months or years without significant deterioration).

In medical or hospital environments, reusable enema equipment is now rare because of the expense of disinfecting a water-based solution. For a single-patient stay of short duration, an inexpensive disposable enema bag can be used for several days or weeks, using a simple rinse out procedure after each enema administration. The difficulty comes from the longer time period (and expense) required of nursing aides to give a gentle, water-based enema to a patient, as compared to the very few minutes it takes the same nursing aide to give the more irritating, cold, packaged sodium phosphate unit.

For home use, disposable enema bottle units are common, but reusable rubber or vinyl bags or enema bulbs may also be used. In former times, enemas were infrequently administered using clyster syringes. If such commercially available items are not at hand, ordinary water bottles are sometimes used.