5 reasons to try transanal irrigation (TAI) in children with bowel dysfunction

June 1 2017

When a child suffers from bowel problems, it often affects the whole family. Many struggle for far too long with dietary and stool changing medication, without satisfactory results. But there are other solutions!


Children with bowel dysfunction may experience pain, bloating, loss of appetite and soiling. Some children have bowel accidents several times a day, which can lead to embarrassment and social insecurity.

Searching for a bowel therapy

To start with, many families are advised about diet, activity and medicine of different varieties (bulking agents, stool softeners and laxatives). For some children this might be enough, but for many the problems continue.

Many parents devote a lot of time trying to find the right treatment for their child. Every new failed attempt is emotionally draining and can lead to a feeling of hopelessness. Many stay on these conservative methods without knowing about the next treatment level, which includes transanal irrigation (TAI).

Transanal irrigation

Transanal irrigation is a technique for effectively flushing the bowel with plain water. The water is inserted via a catheter that is held in place with a small balloon, also stopping the water from coming out during the treatment. The water softens the stool and starts the natural (peristaltic) movements of the bowel, pushing out the poo. When the air in the balloon is released and the catheter removed, the stool and water comes out.

These are the main reasons for trying transanal irrigation: 

1. Reduces risk of bowel accidents

When this method is used regularly, it effectively empties the bowel so that it stays empty until the next irrigation, reducing the risks for accidents.

2. Gives control

TAI prevents soiling and gives control over time and place for bowel emptying. In many families the parents and the child decides on suitable days to perform TAI, that fit into the school or activities schedule.

3. Is safe

There are no drugs and no surgery involved – just lukewarm water, using the fact that the bowels start to move on the stimuli from the water.

4. Saves time

Once your child has learned the procedure and the body has adapted to it, the irrigation takes between 15 and 60 minutes, compared to the hours spent on the toilet using conservative methods. TAI is usually performed either daily, every other day or twice a week depending on your child’s needs.

5. Creates confidence and opens up for a social life

The aim of TAI is to restore a well-functioning bowel allowing your family to live a normal life, not limited by bowel issues. Reduced risk of accidents creates confidence, saves time and opens up for a social life, both for the child and family. A more predictable bowel emptying routine can also make parents feel more confident about their child being away from home, e.g. in school or with friends.

Download the parental guide: Your child and transanal irrigation

Topics: Transanal irrigation (TAI), Children and TAI