Objective: Irrigation of the distal part of the large bowel is a nonsurgical alternative for patients with defaecation disturbances. In our institution, all patients with defaecation disturbances, not responding to medical treatment and biofeedback therapy, were offered retrograde colonic irrigation (RCI). This study is aimed at evaluating the long-term feasibility and outcome of RCI.
Methods: Between 1989 and 2001, a consecutive series of 267 patients was offered RCI. All patients received instructions about RCI by one of our enterostomal therapists. Twenty-eight patients were lost to follow-up. A detailed questionnaire was sent by mail to 239 patients. The total response rate was 79% (190 patients). Based on the returned questionnaires it became clear that 21 (11%) patients never started RCI. The long-term feasibility and outcome of RCI was therefore assessed in the remaining group of 169 patients. Thirty-two patients were admitted with soiling, 71 patients with faecal incontinence, 37 patients with obstructed defaecation and 29 had defaecation disturbances after low anterior resection or pouch surgery.
Results: According to the returned questionnaires, RCI was considered effective by 91 (54%) patients. Among patients with soiling and faecal incontinence, RCI was found to be effective in, respectively, 47 and 41% of the subjects. Despite of the reported effectiveness, 10 (67%) patients with soiling and 5 (17%) patients with faecal incontinence decided to stop. Among patients with obstructed defaecation and those with defaecation disturbances after low anterior resection or pouch surgery the effectiveness of RCI was found to be 65 and 79%, respectively. None of these patients ceased their therapy. The overall success-rate of long-term RCI was therefore 45%.
Conclusions: Long-term RCI is beneficial for 45% of patients with defaecation disturbances. In the group of patients who considered RCI effective and beneficial, discontinuation of therapy was only observed among those with soiling and faecal incontinence.