UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Toxicology

Title: Gastric Lavage: Position Paper Update

Keywords: gastric lavage, GI decontamination (PubMed Search)

Posted: 3/9/2013 by Bryan Hayes, PharmD (Emailed: 3/14/2013) (Updated: 3/14/2013)
Click here to contact Bryan Hayes, PharmD

In 2013, the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology and European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists published a second update to their position statement on gastric lavage for GI decontamination (original 1997, 1st update 2004).

Here are the highlights:
  • Gastric lavage should not be performed routinely, if at all, for the treatment of poisoned patients.
  • Further, the evidence supporting gastric lavage as a beneficial treatment even in special situations is weak.
  • In the rare instances in which gastric lavage is indicated, it should only be performed by individuals with proper training and expertise.

Bottom line: Gastric lavage generally causes more harm than good. It should not be thought of as a viable GI decontamination method.


Bonus: Dr. Leon Gussow (@poisonreview) reviews the position paper on his blog, The Poison Review, here:


Benson BE, et al. Position paper update: gastric lavage for gastrointestinal decontamination. Clin Toxicol 2013 Feb 18. [Epub ahead of print]

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