Nasogastric Tube or Feeding Tube, Pediatric

There are times when children cannot eat or drink for a short time. This can happen if a medical problem requires that the stomach be kept completely empty including constant removal of normal stomach fluids. To do this, a soft, flexible tube is passed through the nose, the back of the throat, and down to the stomach. The tube can then be connected to a suction machine to help keep the stomach empty.

There are also times when children need help with breathing by using a tube in the throat that is connected to a machine. This breathing tube prevents normal eating and drinking. Food, water, and medications must be given another way. A feeding tube (nasogastric tube, NG tube) is used to do this. It looks like the tube described above, however this tube is passed all the way through the stomach into the small intestine. Liquid food and medication can be given through this tube. Nutrition and medication are an important part of getting better, and this is a helpful way to give both.

LET YOUR CAREGIVER KNOW ABOUT:

  • Allergies.

  • Medications taken including herbs, eyedrops, over-the-counter medications, and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Previous problems with anesthetics or numbing medication.

  • History of bleeding or blood problems.

  • Previous surgery to the nose or sinuses.

  • History of a deviated septum or other problem with the nose.

  • Other health problems.

  • Possible pregnancy, if applicable.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

Most insertions of an NG or feeding tube are quick, painless, and without side effects or complications. However, as with any procedure, there are always possible risks. They include:

  • Failure to successfully place the tube in the stomach or small intestine.

  • Rare incorrect placement of the tube in one of the bronchi (main breathing tubes) of the lungs.

  • Nosebleed.

  • Infection.

  • Allergic reaction to numbing medicine used before the tube is inserted.

BEFORE THE PROCEDURE

The skin around the nose will be cleaned. Sometimes, a numbing medication (given in the form of a spray to the back of the throat) is used just before the tube is passed through the nose. If possible, sips of water are taken at the same time that the tube is passed through the nose as this helps the tube to pass in the right direction.

AFTER THE PROCEDURE

After the tube is successfully inserted, it is held in place with tape or other material usually applied over the nose.

The tube may be connected to a suction device. Or, liquid food may be passed through the tube to provide nutrition. When the tube is no longer needed, the tape is removed from the nose, and the tubing is easily and quickly pulled out and discarded.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

If you are going home with a feeding tube in place, then follow these instructions:

  • Keep the tube clamped except when feedings are given.

  • The tube will need to be occasionally flushed in order to prevent blockage. Instructions for this will be provided.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medications for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Showering may be done normally while the tube is in place. The tape that holds the tube in place will need to be changed and reapplied.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • There is repeated coughing while the tube is in place.

  • Feedings do not pass through the tube as expected.

  • The tube accidentally comes out completely.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Intense coughing or a choking sensation develops.

  • Vomiting develops.

  • Blood fills the tube.

  • Worsening abdominal pain develops.