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What Is an Enema Tube?

A reusable enema bag and tube.
Epsom salt, which can be used to make an enema.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 April 2014
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An enema tube is a long cylindrical shaped device, usually constructed of plastic, which is connected to a bulb or syringe at one end. The opposite end is generally inserted into the rectum so that an enema solution from the bulb can be delivered. Tubes can be long to reach farther into the anal cavity, or short to clear out fecal matter from the lower walls of the rectum. They are generally used in medical settings before certain procedures, but can also be used by patients at home to relieve occasional constipation.

The use of an enema tube is usually reserved for reusable enema models rather than disposable ones. They are normally used when a thorough cleaning of the colon and rectum is necessary, most commonly before a procedure such as surgery or colonoscopy. An enema solution, often consisting of saline, is pushed through the tubing with the aid of a bulb or syringe at one end. This irrigates the colon and loosens up fecal matter which may be compacted on the anal walls.

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An enema tube can be purchased from medical supply stores for home use, and is typically meant to treat severe cases of constipation. This should not be performed frequently, and any cases of constipation which do not subside despite proper dietary changes and proper fluid consumption should be reported to a health care provider. Using an enema more frequently than directed could result in loss of muscle tone in the sphincter muscles. In very rare instances, the tube may be inserted incorrectly and could cause very serious injury to the rectum, anus, or bowel.

Some dieters or those wishing to cleanse the colon may use an enema tube to perform one or more enemas for the purpose of weight loss. Doing this once is generally not harmful, but repeated enemas can lead to health problems. Frequent bowel movements could lead to dehydration and the frequent insertion of enemas may damage the muscles of the rectum. In rare cases a bowel perforation may result. It is not recommended that they be performed for this reason, as it is not an effective means of weight loss.

After each use the enema tube should be washed thoroughly with hot water and a bleach solution to kill any bacteria. It should then be allowed to dry before storing, as mildew or mold could develop. Patients should never use the same tube for both the rectum and any other area of the body, including the vagina. Tubes are not normally used for vaginal douching, as nozzles are typically more effective, and they may reach too far into the vagina and force fluid or bacteria into the cervix.

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