Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Cytology: nasal flush / aspirate

Synonym(s): Nasal lavage

Contributor(s): Prof Bernard Feldman, Kathleen P Freeman


  • To investigate nasal discharge, sneezing Sneezing, epistaxis, or nasal deformity/mass.
  • Relatively non-invasive, few complications.
  • Indication of cells present, but rarely diagnostic except in cases of allergic rhinitis Rhinitis.
  • General anesthesia and intubation required.


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  • Centrifugation: sample may need to be concentrated if large volume of lavage fluid used.
  • Smear.
  • Rowmanowsky stains used for air-dried smears.
  • Light microscopy.
  • Microbiological culture: if required.



  • Low. Diagnosis rarely obtained by this technique alone, except in cases of allergic rhinitis.


  • High specificity if pathogenic yeast or fungi are identified, or if unequivocal cancer cells are recognized.
  • Low specificity if only hemorrhage and/or inflammation is present.

Technique (intrinsic) limitations

  • No information regarding tissue architecture.

Technician (extrinsic) limitations

  • Failure to obtain adequate sample.
  • Interpretation of commensal bacteria/fungi as significant.

Result Data

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from VetMed Resource and PubMed.
  • McCullough S et al(1999) Collection and interpretation of respiratory cytology. Clin Tech Small Anim Pract 14, (4) 220-6.
  • Dunn J K & Villiers E (1998) General principles of cytological interpretation. In Pract 20, 429-437.
  • Norsworthy G B (1996) Nasal flushing procedure for cytologic examination in the cat. Vet Med 90, 11.
  • Rebar A H & DeNicola D B (1988) The cytologic examination of the respiratory tract. Semin Vet Med 2, 109-121.

Other sources of information

  • Cowell R L, Tyler R D & Meinkoth J H (1999) Diagnostic Cytology and Hematology of the Dog and Cat. 2nd edn. St. Louis: Mosby.
  • Duncan J R, Prasse K W & Mahaffey E A (1994) Veterinary Laboratory Medicine. Clinical Pathology. 3rd edn. Iowa: Iowa University Press.