Combat the Clog: Tips for Keeping Feeding Tubes Clear

By March 22, 2019 Newsletter

Living with a feeding tube means dealing with clogs, which can delay nutrition or lead to tube failure. If you know how to handle them should an issue arise, they can be quickly addressed.

Cleaning out clogged feeding tubes is essential because a clog can postpone the administration of important nutrients, hydration, and even medications. However, keep in mind that it’s easier to prevent tube clogs than it is to fix it once it has occurred.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for helping to keep your tube clear:

Don’t use carbonated soda or carbonated water to clear a clog

According to the journal, Nursing, these beverages have an acidic pH that can do more harm than good, as they cause proteins in the enteral nutrition formula to build up too much moisture within the tube.

Do flush with warm water

The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) recommends warm water as the best option to attempt to unclog a feeding tube. They suggest attaching a 30- or 60-mL piston syringe to the feeding tube to help dislodge the clog. Pull back on the plunger to see if that dislodges the clog. If not, fill a flush syringe with warm water, reattach it to the tube, and attempt a flush.

Don’t replace your tube right away

Always attempt to flush before replacing. You may believe a clogged tube is a broken tube and try to replace it, which can be both costly and uncomfortable.

Flushing with warm water may salvage an obstructed tube and make it functional again.

Do keep trying

If the clog holds steady, try moving the syringe plunger back and forth. You can also clamp the tube and let warm water sit and soak the clog for up to 20 minutes.

Do flush tubes regularly

Clogs can occur when tubes are not being flushed regularly and formula or medication lingers. Routinely flush tubes with 30 mL of water every four hours, before and after medication administration, and after any interruption of enteral nutrition. Use at least a 30-mL syringe to prevent tube rupture.

When to consider other solutions

If water doesn’t do the job to unclog the tube, ASPEN recommends trying an activated pancreatic enzyme solution. These are typically not administered by the patient, but by a medical professional familiar with the procedure. So, ask for help.

The Oley Foundation also recommends additional products including physical suction kits, rods and brushes that help to manually loosen a clog.

Have you experienced clogs tied to your tube? What did you do to clear it? Let us know on Facebook!