Enteral Feeding Tube Clogging: What Are the Causes and What Are the Answers? A Bench Top Analysis

Nutr Clin Pract. 2018 Feb;33(1):147-150. doi: 10.1002/ncp.10009. Epub 2018 Jan 11.


Background: Clogged enteral feeding tubes remain a significant barrier to the delivery of nutrition, hydration, and medications to patients who cannot tolerate oral intake. There is limited research that compares the relative efficacy of different methods used to clear a clogged feeding tube. The objectives of this study were to better understand the factors that contribute to enteral feeding tube clogging and to test the efficacy of 3 methods for clearing clogged feeding tubes.

Methods: Three formulations of clogs were artificially created and tested in vitro and composed of various quantities of crushed medication (ie, aspirin) and 0.15 g coagulated protein (ie, tofu). The following 3 clog clearing strategies were tested on all clog types (n = 5 clogs/formulation/treatment): warm water flushes, an enzyme treatment, and an actuated mechanical occlusion clearing device.

Results: The variable among the clog types that appears most responsible for decreased clearing success is the state of the coagulated protein. Dried-out protein appears to makes a greater difference than increasing the medication quantity. The actuated mechanical occlusion clearing device was significantly more successful (93%) when compared with warm water flushes (20%) and the commercially available enzyme treatment (33%; P < .005) at clearing the clogs. The actuated device required significantly less total procedure time (P < .005) and total nursing time (P < .005) when compared with the other 2 clearing methods.

Conclusions: When clogs occur, they can be quickly and effectively resolved by the actuated device, but other methodologies such as water and enzyme treatments may be of assistance.

Keywords: drug-nutrient interactions; enteral access; enteral nutrition; enteral tube clogs.

MeSH terms

  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects*
  • Enteral Nutrition / instrumentation*
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Equipment Failure
  • Humans
  • Parenteral Nutrition Solutions / chemistry*


  • Parenteral Nutrition Solutions