What’s a Nasogastric Feeding Tube?

December 28, 2019
A nasogastric feeding tube can also be used to do stomach washes or to introduce medications.

Nasogastric intubation consists of attaching a feeding tube through a person’s nose into their esophagus until it reaches their stomach. These devices are usually made of plastic or silicone and are quite useful when it comes to feeding people who can’t chew or swallow food.

In today’s article, we’d like to explain some of the main uses of this tube as well as required maintenance and possible complications.

What’s the nasogastric feeding tube for?

As we mentioned above, the tube is a way to feed a person who can’t eat on their own. It takes the food directly into their stomachs. However, it doesn’t help them digest it, but mainly facilitates arrival into this organ.

Feeding tubes are commonly used in patients with metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders. Similarly, doctors use them for people with certain mental disorders, such as eating disorders. Also, they’re helpful in severe cases of malnutrition or prematurity.

Also, a nasogastric feeding tube can drain the stomach contents. Medical professionals do it when there’s an obstruction in the digestive tract. They may also use it in poisoning situations or to empty a person’s stomach before anesthesia. Also, nurses can administer medications through it.

For the most part, only a trained doctor or nurse can do these sorts of procedures though. However, those who have to do it on their own must have the proper training and be able to maintain the device.

A doctor adjusting a nasogastric feeding tube.

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How do you use a nasogastric feeding tube?

Many patients require a nasogastric feeding tube at home, so they must know how to take care of it at home.

For instance, they must know how to keep the external part clean.  To do this, they need a gauze moistened with warm water and soap. Then, they must wipe off the tube and dry it so it’s clear.

People usually add a little bit of water after each meal or medication, about 5 to 10 ml. Similarly, they must check that the probe is in the right position. To do, just look at the marks on it.

Clogged tubes should be replaced. And, even though there’s usually a family member with the proper training to do so, it’s always best to consult with a doctor or nurse. Also, the connector must be off when nothing is going into the patient.

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Other tips

Those who use a nasogastric tube must pay close attention to the nose and mouth. It’s best to move the tube a little from time to time and change its contact with these body parts to prevent irritation. If a person cannot do this every day, they should at least daily do so when it’s dirty or when the surgical tape no longer stays on.

Also, the person in charge of maintenance must clean the patient’s nostrils every day with moistened cotton swabs. Likewise, they must continue proper oral hygiene habits. This is because even if a person isn’t chewing, they must continue brushing their teeth and tongue at least twice a day.

Likewise, they must apply moisturizer in ​​the nose and lips, as facial skin is quite sensitive. The nasogastric feeding tube often leads to irritation and lotion can reduce it.

A woman taking some lotion.

What are the most frequent complications?

Even though this is a very useful device, there could be some complications. For instance, it could lead to nasal injuries. So, as we said above, you should change its position as often as you can. Also, you must disinfect and wash the area.

When an obstruction occurs, you can try to solve it by introducing warm water through the tube. However, you must notify your doctor if you can’t unclog it. In any case, you can prevent most obstructions by running water through it after each feeding.

Another frequent complication is for the tube to come off. This may or may not be accidental – after all, some patients find it quite annoying. But, whatever the reason might be, you must still have it replaced by a professional.

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects, especially when a patient isn’t well-positioned. To prevent it, try to place them in a 45º position. This is mainly to keep food from going in too fast.

In conclusion

Finally, the nasogastric feeding tube is a widely used instrument, but you must follow your doctor’s instructions. Note that it’s very important to know how to use it and maintain it. So, consult a specialist if you have any questions or complications.

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