Stomach Tube Insertion

Stomach Tube Insertion

Alternate Names

  • nasogastric tube insertion
  • NG tube insertion
  • Stomach tube insertion

Definition

A stomach tube (also called a nasogastric or NG tube) is generally about half a centimeter in diameter and is made of pliable plastic. It is inserted through the nose, past the pharynx, through the esophagus and into the stomach. It can be used to drain the contents of the stomach or, temporarily, for feeding a person who is unable to eat normally.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

A person may need a stomach (NG) tube inserted to:
  • empty the stomach after a drug overdose or accidental poisoning
  • drain the stomach after major trauma, so the person can't inhale stomach contents into the lungs
  • treat malnutrition by giving feedings through the tube. Tube feeding is also used temporarily when a person is unable to eat normally, such as after a stroke. If tube feedings are needed for the longer term, a gastrostomy tube ("G-tube") is inserted directly into the stomach surgically.
  • keep the stomach relaxed after major surgery to the abdomen, such as an abdominal exploration
  • prevent distension of the stomach when the person has a bowel obstruction

How is the procedure performed?

The person may be awake or unconscious when the NG tube is inserted. The awake person may experience some discomfort such as watering eyes, nasal pressure, and gagging during the initial stage of passing the NG tube. It is important for the healthcare professional to know if the person has had previous nasal surgery or trauma.
Before the NG tube is inserted, the healthcare professional will measure how far to insert it. He or she will hold one end of the tube at the ear, and measure to the tip of the nose and down to the middle of the chest. The lower end of the tube is then marked with a piece of tape.
The tube is then lubricated to make it slide easily. The person sits up straight and the tube is inserted into one of the nostrils. Once the tip of the tube arrives at the back of the throat, it will stop. The person then swallows sips of water to help the tube move down into the stomach. The tube is stopped when it reaches the tape mark.
The healthcare professional can tell if the tube is placed correctly by gently suctioning out some of the stomach contents. He or she may also inject air into the tube and listen to the stomach with a stethoscope.

Sources

Simon, Robert, Emergency Procedures and Techniques, Third edition, 1997

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