Motility agents for the placement of weighted and unweighted feeding tubes in critically ill patients

Intensive Care Med. 1996 Apr;22(4):301-4. doi: 10.1007/BF01700450.


Objective: To determine if successful attempts at feeding tube placement into the small bowel could be increased with the use of a weighted end or by pre-treatment with a drug to increase gastric motility.

Design: A prospective randomized control study, double blinded for a drug study drug, in a population of critically ill patients.

Setting: A 635-bed acute care hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Patients: Eighty-three patients in the critical care setting randomized into four groups receiving either parenteral normal saline (NS) 100 cc, erythromycin (EMY) 200 mg, or metoclopramide (MET), 10 mg, 30 min prior to attempted tube placement with either a weighted (WEI) (57 patients) or unweighted tube (UNW) (26 patients).

Results: When analyzed for number of attempts prior to successful tube placement into the stomach there was a significant difference between the unweighted and weighted groups: 2.08 +/- 1.03 attempts vs 1.51 +/- 0.94, P < or = 0.015. Duodenal migration at 24 h was demonstrated in three patients in the NS/UNW group and in two patients in the NS/WEI group as compared to no patients in either the EMY/WEI or the MET/WEI groups (p < or = 0.025, Fisher's exact test).

Conclusions: These data demonstrate that the use of weighted feeding tubes decreases the number of attempts required to achieve gastric intubation, but that motility agents given prior to tube insertion do not augment advancement of the feeding tube beyond the stomach and may in fact hinder placement into the duodenum.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Enteral Nutrition / instrumentation*
  • Erythromycin / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metoclopramide / pharmacology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Support / methods*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Erythromycin
  • Metoclopramide