Complications related to feeding tube placement

Norma A. Metheny, Kathleen L. Meert, Ray E. Clouse

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Blind placement of a feeding tube can result in serious complications. Given the widespread use of tube feedings, even a small percentage of such problems can affect a significant number of people. The purpose of this review is to describe recent reports of feeding tube placement problems and to examine possible solutions. RECENT FINDINGS: Multiple case reports of complications of malpositioned feeding tubes continue to surface; most are due to inadvertent placement in the respiratory tract. A tube with feeding ports in the esophagus significantly increases risk for aspiration, as does the displacement of a small bowel tube into the stomach of a patient with significantly slowed gastric motility. Isolated reports of a nasally placed tube entering the brain following head injury continue to occur, as do reports of esophageal and gastric perforation in neonates. A recent study showed that malpositioned tubes are not routinely recorded in risk management databases; it further demonstrated that a comprehensive intervention to reduce complications from small-bore nasogastric feeding tubes was effective. SUMMARY: Complications related to malpositioned feeding tubes are usually preventable. Poor reporting of feeding tube placement errors hinders the adoption of effective protocols to prevent such errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-182
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Opinion in Gastroenterology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Complications
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Intubation
  • Tube feeding


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