Position statement: whole bowel irrigation. American Academy of Clinical Toxicology; European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists

J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1997;35(7):753-62. doi: 10.3109/15563659709162571.


In preparing this Position Statement, all relevant scientific literature was identified and reviewed critically by acknowledged experts using agreed criteria. Well-conducted clinical and experimental studies were given precedence over anecdotal case reports and abstracts were not usually considered. A draft Position Statement was then produced and subjected to detailed peer review by an international group of clinical toxicologists chosen by the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology and the European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists. The Position Statement went through multiple drafts before being approved by the boards of the two societies and being endorsed by other societies. The Position Statement includes a summary statement for ease of use and is supported by detailed documentation which describes the scientific evidence on which the Statement is based. Whole bowel irrigation (WBI) should not be used routinely in the management of the poisoned patient. Although some volunteer studies have shown substantial decreases in the bioavailability of ingested drugs, no controlled clinical trials have been performed and there is no conclusive evidence that WBI improves the outcome of the poisoned patient. Based on volunteer studies, WBI may be considered for potentially toxic ingestions of sustained-release or enteric-coated drugs. There are insufficient data to support or exclude the use of WBI for potentially toxic ingestions of iron, lead, zinc, or packets of illicit drugs; WBI remains a theoretical option for these ingestions. WBI is contraindicated in patients with bowel obstruction, perforation, ileus, and in patients with hemodynamic instability or compromised unprotected airways. WBI should be used cautiously in debilitated patients, or in patients with medical conditions that may be further compromised by its use. A single dose of activated charcoal administered prior to WBI does not appear to decrease the binding capacity of charcoal or to alter the osmotic properties of WBI solution. Administration of charcoal during WBI appears to decrease the binding capacity of charcoal.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Arsenic Poisoning
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cocaine / poisoning
  • Contraindications
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Female
  • Fenfluramine / poisoning
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intestines*
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal
  • Iron / poisoning
  • Male
  • Poisoning / therapy*
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / adverse effects
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods*
  • Verapamil / poisoning
  • Zinc Sulfate / poisoning


  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Fenfluramine
  • Zinc Sulfate
  • Verapamil
  • Iron
  • Cocaine