Ipecac-induced emesis versus gastric lavage: a controlled study in normal adults

D Tandberg, B G Diven, J W McLeod
American Journal of Emergency Medicine 1986, 4 (3): 205-9
Ipecac-induced emesis and gastric lavage are the two procedures most widely used to evacuate the stomachs of patients who have ingested poisons. To resolve a long-standing controversy over the relative efficacy of these two methods, the authors carried out a controlled study in which they administered 25 100-micrograms tablets of cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) to 18 fasting normal adult volunteers on two separate days. On one day, each subject had emesis induced with 30 ml of ipecac syrup followed by 1,000 ml of tap water; on another day, each underwent gastric aspiration and lavage with a 1.1-cm orogastric tube using 3 l of fluid. Both procedures were begun 10 minutes after the ingestion. The recovered vomitus or gastric washings from each procedure were then analyzed for elemental cobalt using atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The mean rate of recovery of the ingested tracer with ipecac-induced emesis was only 28%, whereas gastric lavage resulted in retrieval of 45% (paired t-test, P less than 0.005). In this study, carefully performed gastric lavage was the more effective method of gastric evacuation of tablets in the adult subject.

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