Enemas: Risk VS Reward

During my recent stay in hospital due to appendicitis, I was lucky, or rather unlucky enough to experience my first enema. An enema is a minor procedure which involves injecting a liquid, or occasionally a gas, into the rectum via the anus to either administer medication or flush out colon contents. My enema was delivered with the aim to relieve constipation caused by the use of oramorph to control pain.

The experience itself is rather unpleasant, with all and any dignity out of the window. While it is not painful, it is uncomfortable. I experienced bloating and muscle spasms, both of which were treated with buscopan successfully. The enema itself was only mildly successful with one bowel movement a few minutes after administration.

In terms of historic use, enemas have been utilised for thousands of years, with the first recording of the procedure appearing in the Ebers Papyrus, a document written more than 3,500 years ago in Ancient Eygpt. Enemas have an abundance of uses including the deliverance of medication, relief of constipation and, diagnostic tests.

As with every medical procedure there are risks and rewards. The major risk with an enema is damage to the tissue in your rectum or colon, bowel perforation and, if the device is not sterile, infection. However, it is important to note that when used correctly and administered in a sterile environment by a professional, enemas are safe and effctive.

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