Research Article

Prospective controlled trial comparing colostomy irrigation with "spontaneous-action" method.

Br Med J 1980; 281 doi: (Published 12 July 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;281:107
  1. N S Williams,
  2. D Johnston


    Thirty randomly selected patients with permanent colostomies entered a prospective controlled trial comparing colostomy irrigation with spontaneous action. Each patient was interviewed and examined before irrigation was begun and again after the technique had been used for three months. Each then reverted to spontaneous action for a further three months and was then reassessed. Eight patients abandoned irrigation and 22 (73%) adhered to the protocol. Irrigation caused no mishaps or complications. The mean time spent managing the stoma was 45 +/- SEM 9 min/24 hours during spontaneous action and 53 +/- 9 min/24 hours during irrigation. This difference was not significant. The numbers of bowel actions weekly were 13 +/ SEM 2 during spontaneous action and 6 +/- 1 during irrigation (p < 0.01). Irrigation reduced odour and flatus in 20 patients and enabled 12 out of 18 to stop using drugs and seven to discard their appliance. Irrigation also improved the social life of 18 patients and the working conditions of eight out of 14. These finding show that some patients may not be suitable for irrigation but that for many it is better than the conventional British method of colostomy management. With modern apparatus the technique is safe.