A sort of nasogastric A (NG) tube is a flexible rubber or plastic tube that is passed through the nose down the esophagus and into the stomach. A tube is temporarily placed to deliver substances to or from the stomach.
It is most commonly used to deliver liquid nutrients directly to the stomach because a person cannot eat enough food to meet the body’s needs, although there are other uses.
This article explains why you may need an NG tube, how the tube is inserted, and possible complications you should be prepared for.
Why use NG tubes?
When a person cannot tolerate oral solids, NG tubes can be used to provide nutrition. In some cases, it can also be used for drug delivery.
The most common reasons for using NG tubes include:
- give nutrition and medicine
- expel fluid or air from the stomach
- Adds contrast to the stomach for X-rays (this is a dye that helps distinguish structures so they can be better seen during scans)
- Protect the bowel after surgery or during bowel rest
People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) sometimes need NG tubes placed, especially if they are hospitalized. In some cases, NG tubes are used to treat bowel obstructions associated with IBD without surgery.
NG tubes are usually inserted automatically after any type of abdominal surgery. However, studies have shown that NG tubes are not always required.
Before surgery, check to see if your doctor foresees any conditions or complications that may require you to have an NG tube.
An NG tube is a temporary treatment that allows substances to be added or removed from the stomach. It allows for the delivery of nutrients, drugs or imaging contrast directly into your digestive system. It can also be used to protect your gut.
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How is the NG tube placed?
NG tubes are placed by a doctor or nurse. Usually, the procedure takes place in a hospital. While in some cases your doctor may need to put you to sleep to place the tube, most people are awake during the procedure.
First, your nasal area may be numb with lidocaine or an anesthetic spray. The NG tube is then inserted up through the nostril and down through the esophagus into the stomach.
Your doctor will usually tell you to swallow while the NG tube is being placed. The process is uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you do experience pain, it may indicate that the tube was not placed properly.
Your doctor may examine the tube by adding or removing some stomach contents. They can also order X-rays to make sure the tube is in the correct position.
Finally, tape the outside of the tube to the skin so it doesn’t come off accidentally.
The tube is inserted through the nose into the throat and then into the stomach. During this process, you may stay awake. Anesthetic drugs may be given to relieve discomfort.
NG tubes are very effective in treating certain diseases and delivering drugs, but they can also cause some problems. People using NG tubes may experience various complications, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, or swelling.
The most common complication associated with NG feeding tubes is diarrhea. Your risk of diarrhea depends on whether you have other underlying medical conditions.
Using different medications while using a feeding tube can also affect your risk.
When you have diarrhea, you can experience electrolyte imbalances (minerals that help muscles contract and retain water), poor nutrition, and infections, so it’s important to get proper treatment if this happens.
During insertion, there is a risk of damage to the esophagus, throat, sinuses (cavities in the head) or stomach.
While placement of NG tubes is usually not a problem, in some cases life-threatening injuries can result.
Those who have a serious underlying medical condition and cannot swallow the tube properly are most at risk of developing severe compilation. Putting the tube into the stomach through the mouth (rather than the nose) may help limit the risk in these conditions.
Even with proper placement, NG tubes can become blocked or torn. It can also be moved out of position, which is called shifting.
Displacement occurs in up to 82% of patients receiving NG tubes. The risk is especially high for older adults with cognitive problems who may break the tube because they don’t understand what the tube is or why it has it.
In some cases, food or medication put through the tube may flow back. If these substances get into the lungs, they can cause aspiration pneumonia.
This is a serious, life-threatening problem. Aspiration pneumonia is the most common cause of death in patients with NG feeding tubes.
NG tubes can cause diarrhea or injury. They can also move out of place or cause substances to enter the lungs, causing pneumonia.
Handling NG Tubes
Most patients find the NG tube to be a difficult thing to handle and can be uncomfortable, especially when it is placed. However, in some cases, it can help prevent surgery and provide life-saving benefits.
The bottom line is that it’s uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful, and it can help you avoid more invasive procedures that can lead to greater discomfort. The NG tube is temporary, so it will only be in place when needed, which in many cases may only be a few days.
NG tubes are a common treatment for bowel obstruction in people with IBD, allowing doctors to feed and give certain medications to people who are temporarily unable to swallow anything. It can also be used to clear material from the stomach.
NG tubes can be life-saving tools. However, it also has some notable drawbacks, such as discomfort, potential injury, and other medical issues.
Sometimes the NG tube may be required, sometimes it may be optional. Discuss your situation with your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can the NG tube sit for?
it depends on. Some tubes may need to be replaced every three days, while long-term nasogastric tubes can be in place for four to six weeks.
Is a nasogastric tube the same as a feeding tube?
Yes. The primary use of NG tubes is to provide enteral nutrition, also known as gastric feeding.
Can a nasogastric tube make it difficult to speak?
Only if it is not positioned correctly and interferes with the function of the larynx (vocal cord). In this case, a person may sound hoarse. Once the tube is repositioned, the sound should sound normal.