Complications of enema administration are not common but can include irritation, swelling, redness, bleeding, or prolapse of the rectal tissue. If any of these symptoms are apparent, or if the patient complains of pain or burning during enema instillation, stop the procedure and notify the physician.
Most enemas, because of their liquid state, are absorbed quickly and work rapidly. Retention enemas will take 30–60 minutes to achieve full therapeutic effect. Cleansing enemas usually work within 10–15 minutes to cleanse the bowel and relieve constipation. They may, however, need to be repeated one or two times to thoroughly cleanse the bowel in preparation for a bowel exam or bowel surgery. Medicated enemas, such as antibiotic or anti-inflammatory solutions, may need to be repeated daily over a period of a week or more for full therapeutic effect.
Health care team roles
Enemas are administered by a licensed nurse (R.N. or L.P.N.) in the health care setting. Unlicensed staff, however, may be trained to administer non-medicated enemas under the direction of a registered nurse in some settings. An alert and cooperative patient may also be allowed to self-administer non-medicated enemas in some health care settings under the direction of a nurse. The nurse should, however, assess the patient and the effectiveness of the enema. The patient, or members of the patient's family, can be taught to administer an enema in the home setting.
"Giving a Medicated Enema." In Nurse's Clinical Guide to Medication Administration. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corporation, 2000.
Mary Elizabeth Martelli R.N., B.S., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,