Can rectal irrigation improve quality-of-life for patients who have bowel dysfunction?

Mrs Lisa  Richards1, Mrs Cheryl Penter1
1St John Of God Hosptial, Subiaco, Ardross, Australia

Colorectal surgeons are more skilled now than ever. This has led to surgical resections as low as ultra low anterior resections with hand sewn coloanal anastomoses and temporary loop ileostomy to rest the anastomosis.

Following stoma reversal many of these patients suffer bowel dysfunction known as low anterior resection syndrome (LARS). This results in clustering, frequency and urgency of bowel actions and can be debilitating for many.

At St. John of God hospital Subiaco we have been teaching our patients how to perform rectal irritation in an attempt to give these patient more predictable bowel functionality.

Anecdotally these patients have been reporting a much improved bowel function and improved quality of life.

This inspired us to commission a research project with the aim being to determine if rectal irrigation can improve this cohort of patients quality of life.

The research was extended to not only include LARS sufferers but any patients with bowel dysfunction and is being measured using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Quality of Life Questionnaire.


Lisa Richards has worked as a registered nurse at St John of God Subiaco since 1987. She has been a Clinical Nurse Consultant in Stomal Therapy for the past 10 years.

Lisa is the current Vice President of the WA Branch of the AASTN and has been an active committee member for the past 8 years.

Cheryl Penter is the Clinical Nurse Consultant/Research Nurse at St John of God Hospital, Subiaco working as a member of the Subiaco Colorectal Unit a position she has held for 12 years.

This role encompasses a specialist nurse position with a strong focus in management of all cancer patients through the unit, collating data for both neoplasia and benign databases, coordinating the collection of biological specimens within the CRC unit and hospital based research projects.

Lisa and Cheryl work closely as part of a cohesive multidisciplinary team at St John of God, Subiaco and are both committed to the advancement of nursing excellence in order to achieve optimal patient outcomes.