Stomach Pumping

Stomach pumping is also referred to as gastric lavage. It is a procedure that is commonly carried out in acute poisoning by various substances. It is not a pleasant experience, but it can help save the patient's life. However, it is necessary to admit that stomach pumping has certain limitations and possible complications.


Stomach pumping is in our conditions most frequently performed in acute poisoning by medicaments and mushrooms. Time is the most important factor. The sooner it is performed after ingestion of the substance, the lower amount of poison is absorbed from the digestive tract into the blood. Of course, the rate of absorption is different in various substances. For example, alcohol and the majority of pills are absorbed quite quickly, while the mushrooms may remain in the stomach for several hours without being digested and absorbed.


The principle of the procedure is basically simple. The patient is usually orally (or via the nasal cavity) inserted a tube through the esophagus into the stomach. The tube is used to fill the stomach with a fluid, which is subsequently pumped out the same way together with the gastric contents. This is repeated several times, until only clear fluid is pumped out. In the end, we fill the stomach with a water-solution of charcoal and remove the tube out of the stomach. The charcoal is a substance, which has a large surface area. It is able to bind a number of pollutants, reducing the chance of their absorption in the other parts of the digestive tract. Unfortunately, many toxic substances are not bound by the charcoal, but its application can't at least do any harm.


The stomach pumping not only removes the toxic substances from the patient's body, but it also allows obtaining a sample of gastric content for toxicological investigation, which can definitely exclude or confirm the poisoning and identify the toxic substance.


The procedure is risky, when the intoxicated person has impaired consciousness and the swallowing reflex. This significantly increases the possibility of aspiration of gastric contents, which may lead to dangerous pneumonia. Therefore, patients with impaired consciousness should be firstly intubated. The intubation is a handy procedure, which aims to secure the airways and separate them from the digestive tract.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources