Myth 2 – You Have to Use Sterile Saline for Irrigation

You will see me state this a lot. The solution to pollution is dilution. I didn’t coin the phrase, but it is something that all of us need to know. A few years ago, when I was developing the IRIG-8 wound irrigation device, I had to research everything I could find about wound irrigation. High pressure, low pressure, wound biofilm, saline vs tap water, and much more. One thing that I learned is that there is a lot of literature to safely state that we don’t HAVE to use sterile saline or water to irrigate traumatic skin injuries. If the wounded body part is amenable to it, have the patient stand at the sink and irrigate under the tap for a few minutes. Probably not feasible for grandma’s scalp laceration, but a large number of lacs can be irrigated this way. This allows for a copious amount of water to come into contact with the wound, remove gross contamination and bacteria. If it makes you feel better, you can still irrigate with a syringe and splash guard, just fill up a small basin with tap water and irrigate away! Saline is not essential, but if you are using the IRIG-8 device, you will need to use a saline bottle.

Here is a study to back yourself up when you get confronted by someone less informed than you.


Dr. Patrick O’Malley

The Laceration Course, Course Director

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