NG Tubes

Q. What are NG tubes used for and how is an NG tube supposed to help a patient presenting with small bowel obstruction?

A. Those with small bowel obstruction (SBO) experience a condition in which the intestinal contents do not aborally (moving away from the mouth) progress through the intestine. A definitive therapy for those with a SBO is gastric decompression. A nasogastric tube (NG), a narrow tube passed into the stomach via the nose, allows for this decompression and prevents aspiration. Using the NG tube, stomach contents are removed to relieve the stomach and intestines of the pressure caused by the accumulation of gastrointestinal air and fluid. The tube is also connected to suction to facilitate decompression by removing stomach contents. It usually remains in place until normal bowel function resumes (as evidenced by active bowel sounds or when the patient is able to pass flatus). I’ve also heard of NG tubes being used in other contexts so I looked some of those up as well — in addition to decompressing the stomach, they can also be used to: lavage the stomach to remove ingested toxins, aspirate stomach contents for analysis, administer radiographic contrast media, administer feedings and medications. Resources: