Tap water and the Malone antegrade continence enema: A safe combination?

Elizabeth B. Yerkes*, Richard C. Rink, Shelly King, Mark P. Cain, Martin Kaefer, Anthony J. Casale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Purpose: The Malone antegrade continence enema provides independence and improved quality of life in patients with fecal incontinence or intractable constipation. However, isolated reports of fatal hypernatremia after irrigation with normal saline have raised safety concerns about frequent colonic irrigation in children. Significant electrolyte abnormalities have also been reported with hypertonic phosphate and high colonic tap water enemas. Because our patients routinely use tap water for Malone antegrade continence enema irrigations, we examined the safety profile of this practice Materials and Methods: In the last 3.5 years 71 patients at our institution have used antegrade tap water enemas for managing fecal incontinence or intractable constipation. Standard serum electrolytes were measured Results: We obtained 101 sets of serum electrolyte measurements in 71 patients at a mean of 8.4 months postoperatively (range 1 to 33). A girl who presented with severe hyponatremia and hypochloremia had not used the Malone antegrade continence enema for several days. The most interesting finding was significantly elevated sodium and chloride in I case 6 weeks after surgery that was associated with tap water treated with a home softening system. Electrolytes reverted to normal 1 week after using untreated tap water Conclusions: We did not detect significant hyponatremia or hypochloremia in any patient using tap water for Malone antegrade continence enema irrigation. Although dangerous electrolyte abnormalities are rare, potential morbidity in those cases warrants periodic evaluation. Due to the elevated sodium content in softened tap water families should be alerted to use untreated tap water for preparing enemas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1476-1478
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Abnormalities
  • Enema
  • Sodium
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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