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What Is Nasogastric Tube? Maintaining and Caring for Your Child's Nasogastric Tube

If you have difficulty swallowing, a nasogastric tube may be inserted into your nose and down to your stomach to provide you with nutrients and fluids. The thin, flexible tube is designed to allow food to enter the stomach for normal digestion. It may look uncomfortable, but it doesn't have to be. Please note that nasogastric tubes are not suitable for long-term feeding needs, and there are other types of tubes that go directly into your stomach or small intestine for long-term needs. Discuss with your doctor how long they recommend your child needs tube feeding.

Use and care of nasogastric tubes

When your child has a nasogastric tube, it is important to know how to use it properly and keep it clean. The doctor or nurse will insert the tube for the first time in the hospital and show you how to insert, remove, and care for it at home. The doctor will also tell you how often to replace the tube, and it is very important to follow all of the doctor's guidelines and tips for nasogastric tubes.

If you have difficulty inserting the tube at home, consult your doctor. You can get help from a home health nurse who can come when you need to feed. The placement must be correct, otherwise food will flow into the child's lungs or throat instead of their stomach. Each time the tube is inserted, some liquid is taken from the child's stomach for testing. This ensures that the nasogastric tube is properly placed before use.

There are two ways to feed your child depending on their needs:

Continuous feeding. Continuous feeding gradually drips food into the stomach, with longer periods of time each day. Food is added to a nasogastric pump, and the machine does the work for you. Do not change the settings of your child's pump unless instructed by the doctor.

Bolus feeding. The second feeding method is called bolus feeding. It is used a few times a day around meal times. The amount of food given at each time through the tube is smaller. You can use an automatic pump or a syringe to feed your child manually. Call your doctor immediately if you have concerns.

Diagnosing the need for nasogastric tubes

Your child's doctor will examine their situation to determine if a nasogastric tube is needed. Signs that a nasogastric tube may benefit your child include:

Inhaling stomach fluid, or liquid or solid food particles entering your lungs or trachea instead of being swallowed and entering your stomach. Finding cancer cells in the stomach (gastric cancer). To look for these situations, your doctor may use a special dye to perform radiographic contrast imaging of your child's gastrointestinal tract. They may also use laparoscopy to examine the condition of your gastrointestinal tract, small intestine, and stomach. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive surgery in which the doctor will make small incisions and use a camera with lights to observe the inside of your body.

If another health condition is causing serious damage, a nasogastric tube can allow tissues to heal until your child can eat again without suffering.

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