Transanal irrigation: an alternative therapy for bowel dysfunction?
Transanal irrigation (TAI) is an invasive procedure that involves instilling tepid water into the rectum via the anus, in varying agreed quantities, using either a rectal catheter or cone device. It is usually used to treat bowel dysfunction. Once the water is instilled, the catheter/cone is removed and the water is expelled, along with the contents of the rectum and/or sigmoid colon.
TAI may be a relatively new intervention for the treatment of bowel dysfunction, but anal irrigation itself is an old concept recognised by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79). He wrote that the ancient Egyptians are said to have watched and learnt from the sacred ibis who used its long beak to insert water into its anus to wash out decaying material (Doyle, 2005). The sacred ibis was associated with their god of wisdom, Thoth, who was said to have devised the use of enemas to relieve bowel problems.
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