How do you unclog a gastric tube?

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Whether you discover it at the beginning of your shift when checking placement or when you go to administer your next med, a clogged G-tube can be a nightmare of a fixer-upper.

You would think that in the world of nursing, we would have a tried and true method for unclogging it (or better yet, that the world of medicine would have an antidote of some sort).

Sorry, neither exists! It seems that every nurse has their own unclogging method, and here is mine.

It boils down to four major interventions that have always worked. Depending on the source of the clog, I may get away with only one of the three, or it may take a combination of ALL four:

ADJUST IT

  • This is a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how the simplest of ideas are sometimes the best. Maybe there is an object clogging the tip? Maybe there is some sort of nasty sludge mucking up the entire end of the fenestrated tip? Who knows. Advance or retract the position by a centimeter or two and make another attempt at flushing

SNAKE IT

  • Just like it sounds. Depress and retract the plunger of the syringe to and fro while trying to flush the tube. Don’t be too forceful, but get a good “washing” motion. Once again, it’s not about increasing the force of your flush.

HEAT IT

  • Turn up the heat. I would make the temperature of the fluid/water as hot as you can tolerate. (Yes, you better test it first. I don’t think you want to burn your patient’s oropharynx, do you?)

CARBONATE IT

  • This is more like the last-ditch effort. Take your pick of what type of “soda” or carbonated drink to use, but make sure it’s carbonated. Fill the tube up and let it sit for a period of time. The carbonation will hopefully dissolve the blockage.

What are your best tips for unclogging a gastric tube?

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