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Placement of a feeding tube through the nose is a common procedure in children with cancer. A thin, flexible, hollow tube is passed through the nose, down through the esophagus, and into the stomach (NG tube) or intestine (NJ or ND tube). This allows nutrition support and medicines to be given through the feeding tube. Nasogastric tubes can also be used to remove air or other contents from the stomach.
If the feeding tube is placed using anesthesia, patients should not eat or drink anything by mouth for the specified amount of time before the procedure. It is very important to follow these NPO instructions. Patients may also have NPO instructions after the procedure.
For many children, NG and other nasal tubes are an important part of cancer care. During placement, risks include pain or discomfort, problems related to anesthesia, and injury to structures of the digestive tract. It is also possible that the procedure will have to be stopped if it is not safe to continue. Sometimes, the care team will decide that the child will need to have a feeding tube surgically placed.
After the procedure, the most common complications of NG tubes are pain and irritation of the skin or nose due to the tape or pressure of the tube. Other problems include movement of the tube out of position, tube blockage, digestive problems, and infection.
Serious complications are rare, but they do occur. Be sure to ask questions, and follow all instructions given by the care team.
Reviewed: December 2018