Monitoring feeding tube placement

Nutr Clin Pract. 2004 Oct;19(5):487-95. doi: 10.1177/0115426504019005487.


The purpose of this literature review is to describe currently available bedside methods to determine feeding tube placement. Described first are methods used at the time of blind insertion to distinguish between gastric and respiratory placement and gastric and small-bowel placement. Discussed next are methods used after feedings are initiated to determine if the tube has remained in the desired position in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the methods are research-based, whereas others are opinion-based. The level of accuracy of the methods discussed in the review varies widely. No sure non-radiographic method exists to differentiate between respiratory, esophageal, gastric, and small bowel placement of blindly inserted feeding tubes in the fed or unfed state. However, a combination of some of the simpler and more accurate methods may be used to guide feeding tube placement during insertion and help identify the point at which an abdominal radiograph is most likely to confirm the desired location. In addition, methods described in this review can help determine when a radiograph is needed to confirm that a feeding tube has remained in the correct position after the initiation of feedings. Minimizing the number of radiographs taken to assure correct tube placement is important, especially in young children and in the critical care setting where the need for radiographs for other reasons is common.