An introduction to Transanal/Rectal Irrigation - GoldCare

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An introduction to Transanal/Rectal Irrigation

Transanal, or rectal irrigation as it is sometimes known, is a process of introducing water into the rectum (back passage), to initiate a bowel movement (poo). It is a way of helping people who have problems with their bowels such as:

  • Constipation – difficulty opening your bowels or infrequent, hard to pass bowel movements
  • Neurogenic bowel problems – caused by conditions such as spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, cauda equina
  • Low anterior resection syndrome (LARS) – a condition resulting in changes to bowel function following rectal surgery
  • Obstructed defaecation syndrome – difficulty evacuating your bowels due to problems with the pelvic floor or pelvic organs
  • Faecal incontinence – involuntary leakage of stool (poo), bowel ‘accidents’


Transanal irrigation is a treatment option that is offered when all other management strategies alone are not proving helpful and is usually used alongside most of these (rather than instead of). Prior to irrigation being suggested most people will have been advised to try:

  • Adjustments to diet and lifestyle
  • Medications such as laxatives or anti-diarrhoeals
  • Adjustments to any other medications that may be contributing to the bowel problem
  • Developing good toileting habits
  • Exercises to help with strengthening and/or relaxing the pelvic floor and anal sphincter muscles
  • Anal plugs and inserts
  • Suppositories or enemas
  • Digital stimulation (for those with Spinal Cord Injuries)


For further information on transanal irrigation you can download our information leaflet here: TAI Leaflet

If you think irrigation may be helpful for you, you will need to be referred to a specialist healthcare professional who is experienced in assessing for irrigation and teaching the use of the various irrigation devices that are available. The referral pathway for this will vary from one area to the next, but your GP will be able to signpost or refer you to your local service, if you are not already under their care.

If you use the Goldcare delivery service already, don’t forget you can talk to one of our Goldcare Clinical Nurse Specialists.

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