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Enema administration involves instilling a solution into the rectum and colon. In a retention enema, the patient holds the solution within the rectum or colon for 30 minutes to 1 hour. In an irrigating enema, the patient expels the solution almost completely within 15 minutes. Both types of enema stimulate peristalsis by mechanically distending the colon and stimulating rectal wall nerves. Oil retention enemas act by lubricating the rectum and colon, so feces become softer from absorbing the oil. Medicated enemas can be prescribed to reduce high potassium levels (e.g., Kayexalate enema) or to reduce bacteria in the colon (e.g., neomycin enema) prior to bowel surgery.
Giving a Enema to a Child
Unless contraindicated, help the child into a dorsal recumbent position (lays on his or her back with their knees flexed and feet on flat on the surface of the bed). After lubricating the end of the tube, separate the child's buttocks and push the tube gently into the anus, aiming it toward the umbilicus. Insert the tube 3" to 4" (7.5 to 10 cm) in an adolescent; for the child, 2" to 3" (5 to 7 cm); for an infant, insert it 1" to 1.5" (2.5 to 4 cm).