A retention enema is an enema designed to be retained in the bowel after administration to allow the contents of the enema to be absorbed through the bowel wall. After 30 minutes to an hour, the patient is allowed to void to release any leftover enema solution. This medical treatment can be provided at home or in a clinical setting, and it is advisable to do it in a bathroom or over a bedpan in case of leakage, a common problem during enemas.
Retention enemas can be contraindicated for people with certain conditions. People with severe kidney disease may be at risk of electrolyte imbalances if they absorb enema solution, and they should only receive this treatment under the advice and supervision of a doctor. Patients with a history of heart problems can also be at risk because enemas may stimulate the vagus nerve and cause arrhythmias. Patients who are bleeding or experiencing a prolapse from the rectum should also not be given enemas of any kind. Likewise, people with unresolved abdominal pain can be at risk because distension of the colon could be dangerous.
Small amounts of enema solution are used in a retention enema to make it easier for the patient to hold the solution as directed, and the solution is usually warmed for comfort. The solution can include a variety of compounds, depending on why the enema has been prescribed, and may be administered with a bulb syringe or enema bag. A retention enema can be uncomfortable for the patient because of the need to hold it, and it is advisable to situate the patient comfortably before beginning.
When mixing an enema solution, it is important to follow directions carefully. Enema products often come in a concentrated form and they must be diluted before use. In the case of a home enema, patients may want to consult their doctors to confirm that the enema is a safe and appropriate treatment for the problem. Enemas are not a preferred method of treatment because they can lead to weakening of the bowel muscles and other health problems.
If this type of enema is prescribed, patients may want to ask what will be in it, how it will work, and why it is being prescribed. Patients may also want to discuss alternative treatment options and their possible outcomes to get an idea of the choices available. In some cases, this retention enema is the best and most effective available, even though it can be unpleasant.