Electromagnetic Sensor-Guided Enteral Access Systems: A Literature Review

Dysphagia. 2015 Jun;30(3):275-85. doi: 10.1007/s00455-015-9607-4. Epub 2015 May 6.


Enteral feeding is the nutritional support of choice for acutely ill patients with functional gastrointestinal tracts who are unable to swallow. Several benefits including reduced mortality and length of hospital stay have been associated with early initiation of enteral feeding. However, misplacement of conventional nasoenteric tubes is relatively common and can result in complications including pneumothorax. In addition, the need to confirm the position by X-ray can delay the start of using the tube. Eliminating these delays can help patients start feeding, and minimise the adverse impact on initiating hydration and medication. The purpose of this review was to critically examine whether electromagnetic sensor-guided enteral access systems (EMS-EAS) can help overcome the challenges of conventional nasoenteric feeding tube placement and confirmation. The Royal Society of Medicine's library performed two searches on Medline (1946-March 2014) and Embase (1947-March 2014) covering all papers on Cortrak or electromagnetic or magnetic guidance systems for feeding tubes in adults. Results from the literature search found an agreement between the radiographic and EMS-EAS confirmation of placement. EMS-EAS virtually eliminated the risk of misplacement and pneumothorax was not reported. In addition, studies showed a small decrease in the number of X-rays with EMS-EAS and a reduced average time to start feeding compared with blind placement. This review suggests that EMS-EAS reduces several complications associated with the misplacement of nasoenteric feeding tubes, and that there could be considerable improvements in mortality, morbidity, patient experience and cost if EMS-EAS is used instead of conventional methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electromagnetic Phenomena*
  • Enteral Nutrition / instrumentation
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Esophagus
  • Pneumothorax