Nutrient enema

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A nutrient enema, also known as feeding per rectum, rectal alimentation, or rectal feeding, is an enema administered with the intent of providing nutrition when normal eating is not possible. Although this treatment is ancient, dating back at least to Galen, and commonly used in the Middle Ages,[1] and still a common technique in 19th century medicine,[2] Nutrient enemas have been superseded in modern medical care by tube feeding and intravenous feeding.

A variety of different mixes have been used for nutrient enemas throughout history. A paper published in Nature in 1926 stated that because the rectum and lower digestive tract lack digestive enzymes, it is likely that only the end-products of normal digestion such as sugars, amino acids, salt and alcohol, will be absorbed.[3]

Notoriously, this treatment was given to U.S. President James A. Garfield after his shooting in 1881, and is asserted to have prolonged his life.[4]


  1. ^ Rendle Short, A.; Bywaters, H. W. (1913). "Amino-Acids and Sugars in Rectal Feeding". The British Medical Journal 1 (2739): 1361–1367. doi:10.1136/bmj.1.2739.1361. JSTOR 25302025.  edit
  2. ^ J. W. A. Mackenzie (March 1943). "The nutrient enema". Arch. Dis. Child. 18 (93): 22–7. doi:10.1136/adc.18.93.22. PMC 1987791. PMID 21032242. 
  3. ^ "Rectal Alimentation". Nature 118 (2980): 858–859. 1926. Bibcode:1926Natur.118..858.. doi:10.1038/118858a0.  edit
  4. ^ Bliss, D. W. "Feeding Per Rectum: As Illustrated in the Case of the Late President Garfield and Others". Washington: N.p., n.d. Rpt. from the Medical Record, July 15, 1882.