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Gastric Suction

Gastric Suction

Alternate Names

  • gastric lavage
  • stomach pumping
  • Stomach tube insertion


Gastric suction is performed to empty the contents of the stomach before it passes to the rest of the digestive tract.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

There are many reasons a person may need gastric suction. These include:
  • to empty the stomach after an overdose or poisoning
  • to keep a person from inhaling the contents of the stomach after major trauma
  • to keep the stomach relaxed and empty after major surgery to the abdomen
  • to prevent distension of the stomach when a person has a bowel obstruction
Gastric suction may be done to remove toxic substances from the stomach after a person has accidentally or purposely swallowed them. After the stomach has been suctioned, activated charcoal may be inserted into the stomach through the tube to help absorb any remaining substances.
After surgery or trauma, the intestine slows down its activity. The liquids that are normally produced, such as saliva and gastric juice, tend to accumulate and dilate the stomach. The stomach reacts by vomiting. Gastric suction removes the accumulation of liquid. This helps reduce the risk of a person inhaling gastric secretions into the lungs, which causes aspiration pneumonia.
After several days, the intestine resumes its normal functioning and the gastric suction is discontinued. A bowel obstruction occurs when movement of material through the intestines is physically blocked. The causes of obstruction may include:
  • hernias
  • scar tissue from previous operations
  • fecal impaction, which is a mass of very hard stool
  • colon cancer
  • intussusception, a condition where the intestine "telescopes" in on itself
  • volvulus, a twisting of the intestine
Gastric suction is used until the bowel obstruction has resolved either on its own or with surgery.

How is the procedure performed?

Gastric suction is done through a small tube that is inserted through the nose or mouth. Once the stomach tube is inserted, it is checked for proper placement. This is done by gently sucking out some of the contents of the stomach. Another way to check for proper placement is to inject air into the tube and listen to the stomach with a stethoscope. The tube is then taped securely to the nose or face to prevent movement.
The stomach tube is attached to a suction device. The stomach contents are then suctioned out. The person can be detached from the suction device for short amounts of time, with the tube clamped to prevent leakage.


Medical Surgical Nursing: 4th edition 1994

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

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