Complications related to feeding tube placement

Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2007 Mar;23(2):178-82. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e3280287a0f.


Purpose of review: Blind placement of a feeding tube can result in serious complications. Given the widespread use of tube feedings, even a small percentage of such problems can affect a significant number of people. The purpose of this review is to describe recent reports of feeding tube placement problems and to examine possible solutions.

Recent findings: Multiple case reports of complications of malpositioned feeding tubes continue to surface; most are due to inadvertent placement in the respiratory tract. A tube with feeding ports in the esophagus significantly increases risk for aspiration, as does the displacement of a small bowel tube into the stomach of a patient with significantly slowed gastric motility. Isolated reports of a nasally placed tube entering the brain following head injury continue to occur, as do reports of esophageal and gastric perforation in neonates. A recent study showed that malpositioned tubes are not routinely recorded in risk management databases; it further demonstrated that a comprehensive intervention to reduce complications from small-bore nasogastric feeding tubes was effective.

Summary: Complications related to malpositioned feeding tubes are usually preventable. Poor reporting of feeding tube placement errors hinders the adoption of effective protocols to prevent such errors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects*
  • Epistaxis / diagnosis
  • Epistaxis / etiology
  • Esophageal Perforation / diagnosis
  • Esophageal Perforation / etiology
  • Humans
  • Nasal Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Nasal Obstruction / etiology
  • Respiratory Aspiration / diagnosis
  • Respiratory Aspiration / etiology
  • Sinusitis / diagnosis
  • Sinusitis / etiology
  • Stomach / injuries