Stomach flushing is performed in a hospital emergency room or intensive care unit by an emergency room physician or gastroenterologist. A nasogastric tube is inserted, and small amounts of saline or ice water are introduced into the stomach and withdrawn. The procedure is repeated until the withdrawn fluid is clear.
Little preparation is necessary for this procedure other than educating the patient as to what will happen. The patient should remove dental appliances before the nasogastric tube is inserted.
After stomach flushing, the patient's vital signs will be monitored. Checks will be made for fluid and electrolyte imbalances. If necessary, additional treatment to prevent gastrointestinal bleeding or poisoning will be done.
In poisoning cases, stomach flushing delays the administration of activated charcoal, which may be more beneficial to treating the patient than flushing the stomach. In addition, stomach flushing may stimulate bleeding from the esophagus or stomach. The patient may inhale some of the stomach contents, causing aspiration, pneumonia, or infection in the lungs. Fluid and electrolyte imbalances are more likely to occur in older, sicker patients. Mechanical damage to the throat is more likely in patients who are uncooperative.
Stomach flushing is usually tolerated by patients and is a temporary treatment, performed in conjunction with other therapies.
"Stomach Flushing." In Everything You Need to Know About Medical Treatments. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corp., 1996.
"Gastric Lavage (The AACT/EAPCCT Position Statements on Gastrointestinal Decontamination)." Journal of Toxicology: Clinical Toxicology 35, no. 7 (Dec. 1997): 771.
Tish Davidson, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,