Use of small-bore feeding tubes: successes and failures

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2007 May;10(3):291-6. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3280d64a1d.


Purpose of review: Early enteral nutrition is the preferred option for feeding patients who cannot meet their nutrient requirements orally. This article reviews complications associated with small-bore feeding tube insertion and potential methods to promote safe gastric or postpyloric placement. We review the available bedside methods to check the position of the feeding tube and identify inadvertent misplacements.

Recent findings: Airway misplacement rates of small feeding tubes are considerable. Bedside methods (auscultation, pH, aspirate appearance, air bubbling, external length of the tube, etc.) to confirm the position of a newly inserted small-bore feeding tube have limited scientific basis. Radiographic confirmation therefore continues to be the most accurate method to ascertain tube position. Fluoroscopic and endoscopic methods are reliable but costly and are not available in many hospitals. Rigid protocols to place feeding tubes along with new emerging technology such as CO2 colorimetric paper and tubes coupled with signaling devices are promising candidates to substitute for the blind placement method.

Summary: The risk of misplacement with blind bedside methods for small-bore feeding tube insertion requires a change in hospital protocols.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / methods
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal / methods
  • Enteral Nutrition / instrumentation*
  • Fluoroscopy / methods
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / adverse effects*
  • Pneumothorax / etiology*
  • Pneumothorax / prevention & control
  • Radiography, Abdominal / methods