Objective: To review the efficacy and safety of agents used to prevent and treat clog formation in enteral feeding tubes.
Data sources: A literature search was conducted through MEDLINE (1948-February 2011) and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (1970-February 2011) using the search terms enteral feeding tube and occlusion. In addition, reference citations from publications identified were reviewed.
Study selection and data extraction: All English-language publications were reviewed for applicability.
Data synthesis: Occlusion is a common complication of enteral tube feeding. With Food and Drug Administration regulations, pancreatic enzymes have recently been reformulated and previously published reports can no longer be applied to currently available agents. This has led to concern over what available products have been shown to be efficacious. Three in vitro studies, 1 randomized in vivo trial, and 1 descriptive report were reviewed. In the prevention of tube clogging, it was concluded that water was comparable in efficacy, while being more readily available and cost effective, when compared to Coca-Cola, and both were superior to cranberry juice. For resolution of an existing clog, evidence of the efficacy of any individual agents is limited and has not been reproducible. New formulations of pancreatic enzymes, a new delivery system for enzymes, and products to mechanically dismantle clogs have become commercially available, but no studies have been completed to evaluate safety and efficacy. Comparative in vivo studies of currently available products are needed to evaluate possible methods for resolving an occlusion.
Conclusions: Water flushes have shown to be the most effective method in preventing enteral feeding tube clogging. Well-designed trials are needed to establish the proper place in therapy of new commercially available agents marketed for resolving clogs. In addition, well-designed in vivo trials are needed to establish the role, dosage, and extemporaneous formulation of extended-release pancreatic enzymes in treating such clogs.