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Colonic irrigation


Health guidelines for personal care and body art industries 63
4.1 General
Colonic irrigation is also known as colonics, colonic lavage, colon irrigation, high
colonic or colon hydrotherapy. The practice involves cleansing the entire colon from
the rectum to the caecum using filtered and temperature-regulated warm water,
which enters and exits the colon through tubes connected to a rectal catheter.
Various forms of colonic therapy have been used over the centuries. The practice is
based on the belief that irrigating the bowel cleanses the body of toxins, improves
overall colon function, reduces gas and fever, controls infection, eliminates disease
and relieves constipation, skin problems, sinus, backache, headache, fatigue, bad
breath, coated tongue, indigestion and bloating.
If equipment is not sterile and infection control procedures are not followed, then
there is the potential for transmission of bowel infections (including hepatitis A), as
well as blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C and HIV. There is also the
potential for serious injury.
Victoria’s Health Act 1958 has no provisions requiring a colonic irrigation business to
register with local government. These guidelines have been produced to assist
operators to implement infection control requirements and safe practices.
4.2The procedure
The first stage of a colonic irrigation procedure involves massage of the lower
abdominal area. The operator or the client gently inserts a sterile single-use catheter
into the rectum. Filtered, gravity- or pressure-fed and temperature-regulated warm
water (and occasionally herbs or oxygen, for ozone therapy) is gradually introduced
into the colon, and natural evacuation of faeces occurs. Where the intention is to
use additives, the operator should check with the client before any procedure that
the client does not have any allergies to the proposed substance. In addition, care
should be taken to ensure the system’s tubing does not become blocked during the
procedure. A single session lasts 30–45 minutes and uses 18–20 litres of water.
Water temperature must be regulated to normal body temperature to prevent
thermal shock or scalding. The temperature of the water delivery should be 34–40ºC
and should never exceed 40ºC. Normal body temperature (37.6ºC) should be the
A water-based lubricant in a single-use sachet is recommended to assist catheter
insertion. Single-use gloves should be worn by the operator when assisting a client
to insert a catheter, and discarded immediately. If the client is positioning the
catheter, then they should be provided with single-use gloves and wipes. Wipes or
gloves should be discarded into the clinical and related waste bin. Care should be
taken to avoid cross-contamination.
Operators should wear personal protective equipment, including a clean plastic
apron and single-use gloves when cleaning the equipment and environment after the
session. Operators should keep themselves and their clothing clean, and have no
4. Colonic irrigation
64 Health guidelines for personal care and body art industries
exposed cuts, abrasions or wounds. Hands must be washed and thoroughly dried
immediately before regloving before the procedure and on completion of the
procedure (see part A, section 3.4).
Colonic irrigation differs from the enema currently used in the health care
environment. Enemas use small amounts of electrolyte-based solutions to cleanse
the small bowel before surgery and to assist in faecal disimpaction procedures.
Protocols for urgent medical assistance should be in place (see part A, section 3.2).
4.3 Risks
People who have acute or chronic illnesses, are suffering from diarrhoea or are
immunocompromised should seek medical advice before undertaking any colonic
irrigation procedure. Potential risks for any client include:
• infection due to unsterile equipment or equipment that permits backflow of faecal
material to the water system
• trauma to the colon, such as ulceration or perforation; exacerbation of chronic
bowel disease such as diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease or haemorrhoids; and thermal
shock or scalding if controls regulating the water temperature fail
• a reduced capacity to control bowel movements for a period of time after the
• the removal of normal intestinal flora, which may lead to such problems as
gastrointestinal infections.
4.4 Set-up
See part A, sections 2.2 and 2.3. The procedure room should:
• be as hygienic as possible and protect the operator and the client from disease
• have adequate ventilation, heating and cooling to ensure patient comfort (although
moveable floor heating/cooling units should not be used because they constitute a
safety hazard due to the presence of fluids)
• have smooth, impervious and washable floors
• be fitted with a hands-free hand basin with hot and cold running water supplied
through a single outlet, liquid soap and paper towels
• have a toilet for the exclusive use of the client, located in the procedure room or as
an en suite
• have an en-suite shower
• have paper towel on client couch
• have paper towel for each client to clean himself/herself after the irrigation
Health guidelines for personal care and body art industries 65
• have two waste receptacles: one for clinical and related waste (for any item
contaminated with blood) and the other for other single use items.
Clean and comfortable facilities should be made available for the client to change,
and clean gowns, robes and towels should be provided. Separate toilets should be
made available for public and staff use.
4.5 Equipment
Colonic irrigation equipment should have an Australian Register of Therapeutic
Goods inclusion number. Policies and procedures for safe operation must be in
place, and operators must follow the manufacturer’s instructions, including
maintenance procedures.
Under no circumstances should the colonic irrigation equipment be connected
directly to a potable water supply system. A direct connection could result in: (a)
serious (and possibly fatal) injury to a client due to application of mains pressure;
and (b) under abnormal supply conditions (such as a sudden drop in mains water
pressure), contamination of the potable water supply with faecal material. The
following practices are also important.
• Controls should be placed so clients are unable to alter settings once the procedure
• Suitable water filters (1–20 microns filtration) should be fitted to all systems to
reduce/remove particulate matter. The water must be filtered before entering the
storage tank. The filter elements must be replaced at the manufacturer’s
recommended intervals and as necessary. (It may also be necessary to install a
pump to ensure adequate water flow to the storage tank.)
• For a gravity-fed system, the minimum vertical distance between the top of the
couch and the tank outlet spigot should be 650 millimetres and the maximum
distance between the couch top and the upper level of water in the feed tank should
be 1300 millimetres.
• There should not be pumps, other pressure-enhancing devices or suction facilities
on the client side of the tank. Mechanisms for regulating water temperature must be
installed at the mains and the tank.
• The use of single-use tubing is recommended (AS/NZS 4815:2001, page 23). All
reusable tubing poses a challenge to cleaning processes, and the cleaning
processes have the potential to generate infectious aerosols (particularly given that
tubing is difficult to sterilise). If equipment tubing requires lubrication, then each end
should be moistened with water before connection.
• If UV light is used, then it must be fitted with screening to protect the client, because
it can damage the skin and retina.
66 Health guidelines for personal care and body art industries
4.5.1 Catheters
Catheters must be sterile and single use only. Operators should purchase only items
that are on the Register of Therapeutic Goods, and they should ask suppliers for the
Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods number.
4.5.2 Plumbing/sewage disposal
The consent of the local water authority must be sought before the installation of
any colonic system, and installation must conform with the standards of the
Plumbing Industry Commission (Victoria) and Standards Australia:
• Australian Standard/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) 3500.1:2003
Plumbing and drainage – Water services
• AS/NZS 3500.2:2003 Plumbing and drainage – Sanitary plumbing and drainage
• AS/NZS 3500.4:2003 Plumbing and drainage – Heated water services.
The following practices are also important.
• All plumbing should be easily accessible.
• The system must be odourless and prevent backflow to, and subsequent
contamination of, mains water.
• A reduced pressure zone device (RPZD) should be fitted on the water supply line to
the colonic equipment.
• Water authorities may also require a RPZD to be fitted at the water meter outlet to
contain any possible backflow within the property.
• The storage tank should be vented to atmosphere. Gravity-fed tanks create a
physical air gap, known as a registered air break, to prevent backflow.
• The treatment bed must be equipped with nonreturn and pressure-reducing valves
to prevent backflow of faecal material.
• All waste must be discharged to a sewer, and there must be approval for this
• A pressure hose should be available to clean the system.
• Hot water installations must deliver water at the outlet of all sanitary fixtures used
primarily for personal hygiene at a temperature to ensure scalding does not occur.
• Hot water is to be stored at 60ºC to inhibit the growth of Legionella bacteria.
Health guidelines for personal care and body art industries 67
4.6 Waste disposal, cleaning and disinfection procedures
See part A, sections 2.4, 3.4, 4 and 5.
4.6.1 Disinfectants
Hospital-grade disinfectants should be used in colonic irrigation premises for the
couch, the external irrigation system and en-suite facilities. The internal water tank
should be disinfected using a 5 per cent solution of sodium hypochlorite (chlorine).
This solution should be left for 10 minutes and then rinsed thoroughly using at least
two tanks full of water.
A 5 per cent chlorine solution can be obtained by either:
• 450 millilitres per 4.5 litre tank of a commercial product (for example, laundry bleach
with 4–5 per cent available chlorine), or
• 225 millilitres per 4.5 litre tank of sodium hypochlorite (12 per cent available
chlorine, but usually accepted as 10 per cent available chlorine).
Table 10 outlines a recommended cleaning, disinfection and disposal schedule.
Table 10: Colonic irrigation—cleaning, disinfection, and disposal schedule
Equipment Reason/risk When How Additional information
Catheter Faecal material harbours Immediately after Use sterile rectal Catheters and gloves are
Gloves microorganisms. use catheters only. single use only, so cannot be
cleaned and disinfected.
Dispose of immediately If contaminated with blood
after use. dispose of in the clinical and
related waste bin.
Procedure couch After each client Wash with warm water Wear personal protective
and daily and detergent and dry. equipment when cleaning.
En-suite toilet As above
En-suite shower As above Wipe over with a
Hand-wash basins As above hospital-grade surface

High risk
68 Health guidelines for personal care and body art industries
4.7 Records
All client consultations should be conducted in privacy, particularly when taking a
client history. A record should be kept of all staff, including name, date of birth,
gender, home address and contact telephone numbers. The responsibilities of each
staff member should also be documented.
Clients should read and sign a consent form, which contains details of name, address,
age, medical history and other relevant information. An example is attached in part E,
appendix 3. These forms and details of further procedures and progress should be
kept in a secure location for at least seven years since the last visit or, in the case of
minors, seven years after the client reaches the age of 18 years (that is, until 25 years
of age). Clearly written after-care instructions should be given to all clients.

Intermediate risk Low risk Table 10: Colonic irrigation—cleaning, disinfection, and disposal schedule continued
Equipment Reason/risk When How Additional information
Single-use towels Potential hazard Immediately after Dispose of into clinical
use and related waste bin.
Linen After each client Wash in hot water (70–80ºC) Place into washable leak￾and detergent. proof linen bin before
Dry in open air or in clothes
dryer on hot setting.
Procedure room Daily Wash with warm water and Wear personal protective
– Floors After each client detergent and dry. equipment when cleaning.
– Walls Weekly and when
visibly soiled Wipe over with a hospital
grade surface disinfectant.
Operator personal Potential hazard Daily and when See linen section above Wear personal protective
protective equipment soiled equipment when cleaning.
External tank equipment Weekly Wash with warm water and
detergent and dry.
Wipe over with a hospital￾grade surface disinfectant.
Internal water tank Weekly Fill tank with sodium Sodium hypochlorite is
hypochlorite solution. corrosive, leading to rinsing
Leave 10 minutes.
Rinse thoroughly using two
tank fulls of water.
(Also see disinfection
section above)
Health guidelines for personal care and body art industries 69
The operator should also record incidents of bleeding, complaints of pain, any
required treatment or the need to seek medical treatment. If a client has been
referred from another source, then a report of the treatment results, observations
and recommendations should be recorded. All records should be kept confidential.
When the operator becomes aware of any infection, complication or disease
resulting from any colonic irrigation procedure, these should be reported to the local
government environmental health officer or the Department of Human Services
within 24 hours. In the event of an investigation, the records should be made
available on request to local environmental health officers and the department
officers, who will deal with them according to State privacy legislation.

Colonic irrigation





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