How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Sodium phosphates belong to a class of medications called laxatives. They work by drawing and retaining water into the colon to rapidly produce a bowel movement. This medication is used as a laxative to provide relief for occasional constipation, or to cleanse the bowels in preparation for a number of procedures, such as a colonoscopy. You should experience a bowel movement within 2 to 5 minutes after administering the enema rectally.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

This medication is available as an enema.

How should I use this medication?

The usual dose of sodium phosphates for adults is 120 mL administered rectally (into the rectum) as a single dose. The usual dose for children 2 to 12 years of age is 60 mL administered rectally as a single dose.

To use the enema, lie on you left side with your knees bent and arms resting comfortably (left-side position). Alternatively, you can kneel and lower your head and chest forward until the left side of your face is resting with your left arm folded comfortably (knee-chest position).

Remove the protective cap from the prelubricated enema tip before using. Gently insert the tip into the rectum with a slight side-to-side movement, with the tip pointing towards the navel. Do not force the enema tip into the rectum as this can cause injury. Slowly squeeze the bottle until nearly all the liquid in the bottle is gone. Then remove the tip from the rectum. Maintain your position until a strong urge to defecate is felt. Do not retain the enema solution for more than 10 minutes.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important to use this medication exactly as recommended by your doctor.

Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from light and moisture, and keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take this medication if you:

  • are allergic to sodium phosphates or any ingredients of the medication
  • have appendicitis
  • have heart disease
  • have high blood pressure
  • have ileus (a partial or completely blocked bowel)
  • have intestinal blockage
  • have kidney disease
  • have rectal bleeding
  • have ulcerative colitis

Do not give this medication to infants under 6 months of age.

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • no bowel movement within 30 minutes of enema use
  • rectal bleeding
  • symptoms of dehydration (e.g., thirst, dizziness, vomiting, urinating less often than usual)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Abdominal pain, nausea, fever, and vomiting: If you have abdominal pain, nausea, fever, or vomiting, do not take this medication. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Dehydration: If you experience dehydration (symptoms include thirst, dizziness, vomiting, urinating less often than usual), your doctor should carefully determine the amount of the solution to be administered as this medication can cause further dehydration.

Frequent or prolonged use: Use this medication only when you need it or as recommended by your doctor. Avoid using this medication repeatedly at short intervals, and do not use it for more than 1 week unless directed by your doctor. Frequent and long-term use of this medication can lead to your body depending on this medication for bowel movements.

Heart disease: If you have heart disease, do not take this medication. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while using this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: It is not known if sodium phosphates pass into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are using this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: Children are more sensitive to the effects of enemas. This medication should not be administered to children less than 2 years of age unless directed by a physician. Do not administer this medication to infants less than 6 months of age.

Seniors: Seniors are more sensitive to the effects of enemas.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications that you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. In many cases, interactions are intended or are managed by close monitoring. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.