Types of Lavage and Irrigation in Medicine

What is Lavage?

Lavage is a medical procedure whereby a cavity of the body is washed out using water or a medicated solution such as normal saline. There are different types of Lavage in medicine and requires the use of different types of solutions for the irrigation of these body cavities. Below are the types of lavage and their uses.

Definition of Lavage (Therapeutic Irrigation System)

Lavage is a medical procedure that involves the washing and rinsing or flushing of a body part, body cavity, organ, or body tract with a steady stream of appropriately pressurized sterile water or fluid or solution; it is also called Therapeutic irrigation in medicine.

The pressure should ideally be sufficient to reach the targeted areas without being too much to be forced beyond the point of need. Simple tools like syringes and hosed taps can sometimes be used for basic irrigation procedures but specially designed devices and systems are more suited for certain cases that may be more complex.

For optimal results, strict attention should be paid to certain important details like the ideal temperature, the return-flow capability of the solution, appropriate adjustable water or solution pressure, aseptic conditions, provision for auxiliary water and power supply.

Some devices are designed to deliver different strengths and types of liquid delivery that may have some flow from a single adjustable device or separate individual devices.

Types of Lavage

  • Nasal irrigation
  • Ear lavage
  • Antiseptic lavage
  • Pulsed lavage
  • Ductal lavage
  • Bronchoalveolar lavage
  • Arthroscopic lavage
  • Peritoneal lavage
  • Gastric lavage
  • Colonic Irrigation

Nasal Irrigation

Nasal irrigation with syringe
Nasal irrigation with a syringe

The washing of the nasal cavity and sinuses typically with a saline solution removes debris and mucus, relieves congestion, moisturizes the mucous membranes, or administers medication is termed a nasal lavage. It can be administered with irrigation or dispensing device, a syringe, nasal spray, or a nebulizer (a device that converts liquid medication into a mist).

Ear Lavage

The rinsing out of the ear canal with a saline solution or warm water to remove foreign objects, substances, or cerumen (natural earwax) is called an ear lavage. A bulb syringe is usually used for this irrigation system procedure.

Antiseptic Lavage

Antiseptic lavage is an irrigation system that involves the washing of internal body parts especially hollow organs such as the lower bowels with warm water mixed with antiseptic or antifungal medication.

Pulsed Lavage

The use of a specialized device to administer controlled pulses or measured, intermittent jet streams of water to a body part or serious wound is termed a pulse lavage. It is an important therapeutic irrigation system.

Ductal Lavage

Ductal lavage is a breast cancer-screening medical procedure where a saline solution is inserted into the milk ducts of a woman’s breast through the nipple using a catheter (a sterile tube used in medicine) to collect the breast cells that will subsequently be retrieved and analyzed under the microscope for detection of cancerous cells.

Bronchoalveolar Lavage

Bronchoalveolar lavage is a method of diagnosing infections of the lower respiratory system where fluid is introduced into the lungs through a bronchoscope (a medical instrument consisting of a thin tube, a light, and a lens for viewing with some having an appending tool for the collection of tissue samples for microscopic investigation) passed through the nose or mouth. The fluid is then retrieved and examined under a microscope.

Arthroscopic Lavage

Arthroscopic lavage is the visually-guided therapeutic washing of the contents of a joint particularly knee joints with a typically saline solution to remove loose and unwanted foreign bodies and fluid.

Peritoneal Lavage

The diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) is an invasive emergency procedure that is used to diagnose hemoperitoneum (a form of internal bleeding where blood accumulates in the small space between the abdominal wall and the internal organs called the peritoneal cavity).

DPL is achieved by the introduction of a crystalloid fluid (aqueous solution of human plasma-isotonic (having the same osmotic pressure) mineral salts and other therapeutic components) using a catheter that is inserted into the peritoneal cavity after which it is removed by aspiration (removal by suction) for diagnostic analysis.

Gastric Lavage

Gastric lavage, stomach pumping, or gastric irrigation is a technique of cleaning out the contents of the stomach by flushing with warm water or some other appropriate solution with the aid of a specialized tube to administer small amounts of the solution and then remove it along with the targeted substance.

The targeted substance or liquid to be removed is generally an unwanted substance like a poison, a discharge, or overdosed drug such as ethanol (alcohol), etc. The irrigation can also be in preparation for a procedure or operation. Some examples of the type of professional tubes used are; Levin tube, Gastric sump tube, Stomach (Ewald) tube, and the Miller-Abbott tube.

Colonic Irrigation

The colonic irrigation system is also known as colon cleansing, or colon hydrotherapy is a treatment that has been around since ancient times that entails the flushing or washing of the colon to evacuate accumulated waste material to promote health.

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