Tap water for irrigation of lacerations

Am J Emerg Med. 2002 Sep;20(5):469-72. doi: 10.1053/ajem.2002.35501.


This study was designed to compare the infection rates of simple lacerations irrigated with tap water versus sterile normal saline before repair. Patients with simple lacerations to an extremity that were less than 8 hours from injury were prospectively enrolled. Exclusions from the study were: dog bites, hand lacerations, immunocompromised patients, and those on antibiotics at the time of injury. Patients who qualified were randomized to receive tap water or normal saline for wound irrigation. Before and after irrigation, wound cultures were obtained. After the procedure was complete, patients were scheduled for a 48 hour follow-up wound check. A total of 46 patients were enrolled in the study. Twenty-four patients were randomized to the normal saline group and 21 were assigned to receive tap water irrigation. There were 2 infected lacerations in both the tap water and normal saline groups. The organisms cultured from the wounds in both groups were similar and there was no difference in colony counts when tap water was used. The use of tap water for the irrigation of lacerations does not result in the growth of unusual organisms or increase the colony counts of organisms. Wound infection rates were the same in both groups. This pilot study suggests that the use of tap water for irrigation of wounds may be safe. Further validation is necessary.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Cost Savings
  • Emergency Treatment / adverse effects*
  • Emergency Treatment / economics
  • Emergency Treatment / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lacerations / therapy*
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Safety
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sodium Chloride / economics
  • Sodium Chloride / therapeutic use*
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / adverse effects*
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / economics
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods
  • Water / adverse effects*
  • Water Microbiology
  • Wound Infection / etiology
  • Wound Infection / microbiology


  • Water
  • Sodium Chloride