A lavage system usually consists of a chamber and some kind of tube for gently rinsing cavities in the body, most often the sinuses. A doctor may also use a lavage system to examine the lungs. In these cases, the fluid is added to the lungs, then extracted and examined to discover what kind of infection may be there. Nasal lavage, also called nasal irrigation, usually involves passing water through the sinuses to relieve allergies or help clear away a sinus infection. Typically, the look and style of a lavage system depends largely on what part of the body it is being used to irrigate.
The nasal lavage system is typically the most popular. It usually features a neti pot, which is a small ceramic pot that looks a bit like Aladdin’s lamp. The chamber of the pot is filled with a warm saline solution and the spout of the lavage system is slipped inside one of the nostrils. The patient then bends over at the waist and turns his or her head to the right or left. If the spout is in the left nostril, the patient should look left, and vice versa. While breathing through the mouth, the patient then tilts the neti pot so the water streams through the sinuses and comes out of the opposite nostril.
When all of the water has been streamed through the sinuses, the patient should then breathe deeply through the nose to dry them. The process may then be repeated through the other nostril. Some people perform nasal lavage every day, while others do it only to get rid of stubborn infections.
A lavage system used to examine the lungs is quite different than one used to clean the nostrils. Lung lavages usually feature a flexible rubber tube slipped down through the central windpipe to deliver water to one of the lungs via a small plastic bag. Only a small amount of water is used in this procedure. The water is immediately pulled back into the back for examination.
Other types of lavage system include enemas, vaginal douches, and systems used to clean the ears. The term lavage can be used in reference to cleaning any bodily cavity. An anal or vaginal lavage, for instance, usually has a soft, tapered nozzle on the end of a long rubber tube to make insertion more comfortable. Lavage systems for the ears usually have smaller tubes than other kinds of systems.