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The importance of lavage in wound care

02 June 2021
7 mins read
Volume 12 · Issue 5
Figure 1. Large, open de-gloving injury requiring thorough lavage.


Open wound management in veterinary practice is commonplace, with the aim to provide the optimum wound condition to help aid healing and closure of the wound. There are four main principles of wound management needed to provide a healing environment. There needs to be identification and control of any infection and contamination, and wound necrosis needs to be controlled, any ongoing deterioration in the wound controlled and acted on and any further damage to the wound needs to be prevented. This article looks at lavage, one of the most important firstline methods in controlling infection and discusses how it is performed.

Lavage is one of the most important parts of wound management, and there are multiple reasons why it is beneficial and is thought to help to optimise wound healing. The main aim of wound lavage, or as it also termed irrigation, is to loosen foreign material within a wound or necrotic tissue, while diluting any contaminants, such as bacterial load that may be present (Aldridge, 2013). Hussey and Bagg (2011) stated that the initial 6 hours following injury is known as the ‘golden period’ and if lavage is not carried out in this period, the risks of infection are considerably increased.

Analgesia should always be considered before lavage is initiated. If the patient's condition allows, chemical restraint should be considered to minimise further trauma, reduce further contamination and for analgesia (Aldridge, 2013).

Lavage rehydrates any potential necrotic tissue, which can potentially help to preserve some surrounding tissue, and aid in the removal of any tissue not required by debridement (Kirk, 2014). The process will also reduce the amount of foreign material present if it is done correctly, removing any toxins and cytokines from the wound, and removing any surface debris and bacteria (Anderson, 2012).

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