In cleanse their colons of stool as part

In this lesson, you will learn about an enema, a device used in medical procedures where liquid is introduced into the large intestine through the rectum for the purposes of removing stool or performing a diagnostic procedure.

What Is an Enema?

Brittany is at the emergency room. Her stomach is distended, and she has not passed stool in three days, which is causing her a significant amount of pain.

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The doctor examined her and determined that she is constipated and needs an enema. Brittany has never heard of enema before; she is in a lot of pain but is unsure about the procedure. A nurse comes in with a bottle of liquid attached to a long tube and explains that an enema is an instrument used to introduce liquid into the large intestine though the rectum.The nurse explains that normally after you eat food your stomach digests it, turning it into a liquid. The liquid is then passed through the intestines where nutrients and excess liquid are absorbed.

This turns the liquid food into stool. If you’re unable to pass the stool, more and more liquid gets absorbed making the stool hard and difficult to pass as a bowel movement. The liquid solution in the enema will help soften and liquefy the stool, which makes it easier to pass.


The nurse explains to Brittany that she will have her undress from the waist down and cover her with a sheet. She will position her lying down on her left hand side. The nurse says she will wash her hands, put on gloves and lubricate the tip of the enema to make the procedure more comfortable. The lubricated tube will be inserted into Brittany’s rectum and the bottle containing the liquid will be squeezed so that all the liquid will be emptied into her colon (large intestine). The enema will then be removed.Brittany should feel the sensation to have a bowel movement immediately.

The nurse explains that it is best if Brittany waits as long as she can without using the bathroom so the liquid has a chance to soften the stool. Brittany agrees to have the procedure performed, but is curious about something: what exactly is the liquid in the enema?

Types of Enemas

There are different types of enemas. Most are made of plain water, but others contain solutions that help draw water out of the bloodstream back into the colon, such as sodium chloride or even baking soda. Others may include a lubricant, such as mineral oil or a cleansing agent, such as soap.


There are other uses for enemas besides constipation.

They can be used to aid in procedures and visual studies, such as colonoscopies and CAT scans. They can be effective in evacuating the bowels prior to surgery or used to put radiographic dye into the intestines, such as barium, to allow for a better visual of the digestive tract.Some people who can’t take medication due to abnormalities of their digestive tract can have their medication administered by an enema, and instead of being absorbed in the stomach, it’s absorbed through the large intestine into the blood stream. Medical professionals can also use enemas to rehydrate patients who cannot drink or receive intravenous hydration, as the colon will absorb water into the bloodstream.

Others use enemas for non-medical reasons for example, to cleanse their colons of stool as part of a fast or diet.

Side Effects

The nurse explains the side effects of using an enema are rectal bleeding, gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and rare allergic reactions, such as hives and difficulty breathing. Brittany was able to use the bathroom, and her pain resolved not after one but two enemas! She felt well enough to be discharged home.

Lesson Summary

An enema is a medical treatment commonly used to treat constipation where liquid is introduced into the colon to soften and liquify stool.

There are many uses for it including but not limited to curing constipation and aiding in visual procedures like colonoscopies and CAT scans.

Notes on Enemas

Enema definition
A medical treatment where liquid is introduced rectally into the colon
Can be used to:*Treat constipation *Administer fluids*Administer medication*Cleanse the colon *Assist in other medical procedures
The liquid used in an enema depends on the reason for the procedure and can include:*Water *Baking soda*Sodium chloride *A lubricant *A cleansing agent

Learning Outcomes

Once you have finished, you should be able to:

  • Explain what an enema is
  • Summarize the process of administering an enema
  • List different types of enemas
  • Discuss some of the reasons for receiving an enema
  • Identify side effects of enema usage

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