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Oxford Children's Hospital

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Bowel washout

Information alert box Hirschsprung's-Associated Enterocolitis (HAEC) Alert

It can be difficult to tell whether a child with Hirschsprung's has a tummy bug or enterocolitis.When in doubt, it is best to assume enterocolitis and seek treatment.

Advice for parents / carers | Advice for clinicians

Bowel washout via rectal irrigation

In children with Hirschsprung's disease, bowel washouts are used to decompress the rectum and colon of trapped air and stools.

We aim to train all our families affected by this condition.

You will need:

  • washout fluid (saline, or clean boiled and cooled water)
  • bladder syringe
  • tubing (12F Urethral catheter (clear) / Jacques catheter (red))
  • lubricant
  • anal dilator (size <12)


  • Tube is lubricated and passed through the child's anus, into the rectum
  • Gently introduce washout fluid in 20ml increments
  • Use enough to get an effective washout
  • At the end, use the anal dilator to release any trapped wind or fluid in the rectum
Last reviewed:21 February 2023