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April 2, 1955


Author Affiliations

Richmond, Va.

JAMA. 1955;157(14):1208-1210. doi:10.1001/jama.1955.02950310034008

The use of solutions to cleanse the lower intestine (enema, clyster) dates back to the dawn of recorded history. Lieberman points out that some of the earliest references to enemas are found in the cuneiform inscriptions on Babylonian and Assyrian tablets (ca. 600 B.C.). Celsus (25 B. C.-50 A. D.) gave an exact description as to when and how to administer an enema. He used sodium chloride solution or sea-water enemas to remove "excreta accumulated near the exit." Avicenna (980-1037 A. D.) is credited with the introduction of the "clyster-purse" or collapsible portion of an enema outfit made from ox skin or silk cloth and emptied by squeezing with the hands. The popularity of enemas has varied from era to era, the 18th century apparently marking a particularly low point in their extent of use. Today, however, the value of a satisfactory enema solution properly used is well nigh universally

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