How to feed a person with a nasogastric tube

The nasogastric tube is a thin and flexible tube, which is placed in the hospital from the nose to the stomach, and which allows the maintenance and administration of medications to people who are unable to swallow or eat normally, due to some type of surgery in the mouth and throat region, or due to degenerative diseases.

Feeding through the tube is a relatively simple process, however, it is important to take some precautions to prevent the tube from moving and to prevent food from reaching the lungs, which could cause pneumonia, for example.

Ideally, the tube feeding technique should always be trained by the caregiver in the hospital, with the help and guidance of a nurse, before the person goes home. In cases where the person with the probe is autonomous, the feeding task can be done by the person.

6 steps to feed a person with probe

Before starting the nasogastric tube feeding technique, it is important to sit the person down or lift the back with a pillow, to prevent food from returning to the mouth or being sucked into the lungs. Then follow the step-by-step:

1. Place a cloth under the nasogastric tube to protect the bed or person from food scraps that may fall from the syringe.

2. Fold the tip of the nasogastric tube, squeezing tightly so that no air enters the tube, as shown in the image, and remove the cap, placing it on the cloth.

3. Insert the tip of the 100 ml syringe into the opening of the probe, unfold the tube and pull the plunger to aspirate the liquid that is inside the stomach.

If it is possible to suck more than half the amount of liquid from the previous meal (about 100 ml) it is recommended to feed the person later, when the content is less than 50 ml, for example. The aspirated content must always be placed back in the stomach.

4. Fold the tip of the nasogastric tube back and tighten it tightly so that no air enters the tube when removing the syringe. Replace the cap before unfolding the probe.

5. Fill the syringe with crushed and strained food, and put it back in the probe, bending the tube before removing the cap. Food should not be too hot or too cold, as it can cause a thermal shock or burn when it reaches the stomach. Medications can also be diluted with food, making it possible to crush the tablets.

6. Unfold the tube again and slowly press the syringe plunger, emptying 100 ml in about 3 minutes, to prevent food from entering the stomach too quickly. Repeat this step until you finish feeding all the food, folding and capping the probe with the cap each time you remove the syringe.After feeding the person

After feeding the person it is important to wash the syringe and put at least 30 ml of water in the probe to wash the tube and prevent it from becoming clogged. However, if the probe has not yet been watered, the probe can be washed with about 70 ml to avoid dehydration.

In addition to food, it is very important to remember to offer 4 to 6 glasses of water a day through the tube, or whenever the person is thirsty.

Material needed for tube feeding

To properly feed a person with a nasogastric tube it is important to have the following material:

  • 1 100 ml syringe (feeding syringe);
  • 1 glass of water;
  • 1 cloth (optional).

The feeding syringe must be washed after each use and must be changed at least every 2 weeks for a new one, bought at the pharmacy.

In addition, to prevent the probe from becoming clogged, and it is necessary to change it, you should only use liquid foods, such as soup or vitamins, for example.

Care after feeding through the tube

After feeding the person with a nasogastric tube it is important to keep them seated or with their backs raised for at least 30 minutes, to allow easier digestion and avoid the risk of vomiting. However, if it is not possible to keep the person seated for a long time, it should be turned to the right side to respect the anatomy of the stomach and avoid reflux of food.

In addition, it is important to give water through the tube regularly and maintain the patient’s oral hygiene because, even if they do not feed through the mouth, bacteria continue to develop, which can cause cavities or thrush, for example. See a simple technique for brushing the teeth of a person who is bedridden .

How to prepare food for use in the probe

Feeding to the nasogastric tube, called the enteral diet, can be done with almost any type of food, however, it is important that the food is well cooked, crushed in a blender and then strained to remove pieces of fiber that may end up clogging the probe. In addition, juices must be made in the centrifuge.

Since much of the fiber is removed from the food, it is common for the doctor to recommend the use of some nutritional supplementation, which can be added and diluted in the final preparation of the food.

There are also ready-to-eat meals, such as Fresubin, Cubitan, Nutrirink, Nutren or Diason, for example, which are bought in pharmacies in powder form to be diluted in water.

Sample tube feeding menu

This example menu is an option for a person’s feeding day that needs to be fed by a nasogastric tube.

  • Breakfast –  Liquid manioc porridge.
  • Collation –  Strawberry vitamin.
  • Lunch –  Carrot, potato, pumpkin and turkey meat soup. Orange juice.
  • Snack –  Avocado smoothie.
  • Dinner –  Cauliflower soup, ground chicken and pasta. Acerola juice.
  • Supper –  Liquid yogurt.

In addition, it is important to give the patient water through the probe, about 1.5 to 2 liters throughout the day and not to use the water just to wash the probe.

When to change the probe or go to the hospital

Most nasogastric tubes are very resistant and, therefore, can remain in place for around 6 weeks in a row or as instructed by the doctor. 

In addition, it is important to change the probe and go to the hospital whenever the probe leaves the site and whenever it is clogged.

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