Influence of unclogging agents on the surface state of enteral feeding tubes

JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2011 Mar;35(2):255-63. doi: 10.1177/0148607110383146.


Background: Despite standardized prevention procedures, recalcitrant clogging of enteral feeding tubes is observed, which requires recourse to varied unclogging agents. Some of these agents have proved effective in routine use, but their impact on the surface state of the tube materials has never been studied. In this work, the authors tested the impact of different unclogging agents on the materials used for these tubes (polyurethane and silicone).

Methods: Enteral feeding tubes were placed in contact with different agents in vitro, and the surface state of the material was analyzed using 2 different methods: infrared spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy. To assess the surface state of the silicone and polyurethane tubes, negative controls (undamaged tubes) and positive controls (deliberately damaged tubes) were used for each type.

Results: The infrared spectroscopy method did not reveal any damage to the surface of either the silicone or the polyurethane tubes with either treatment. The test results by scanning electron microscopy showed that orange juice, pineapple juice, and cola had no detrimental action on the tube biomaterials under current conditions of clinical practice.

Conclusions: Although some studies have advocated using polyurethane tubes to administer medication, silicone appears to be less vulnerable to damage by the agents tested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Beverages
  • Decontamination / methods*
  • Enteral Nutrition / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Failure*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods
  • Polyurethanes*
  • Silicones*
  • Spectroscopy, Near-Infrared / methods
  • Surface Properties*


  • Polyurethanes
  • Silicones