If you can’t eat or swallow, you may need to have a nasogastric tube inserted. This process is known as nasogastric (NG) intubation. During NG intubation, your doctor or nurse will insert a thin plastic tube through your nostril, down your esophagus, and into your stomach. Once this tube is in place, they can use it to give you food and medicine. They can also use it to remove things from your stomach, such as toxic substances or a sample of your stomach contents.
NG intubation is most commonly used for patients who:
- have neck or facial injuries
- have had neck or facial surgery
- need a mechanical ventilator to breathe
- have an intestinal obstruction or blockage
- are comatose
It’s also used to help treat some premature infants.
Your doctor or nurse can give you food and medicine through an NG tube. They can also apply suction to it, allowing them to remove contents from your stomach. For example, your doctor may use NG intubation to help treat accidental poisoning or drug overdose. If you’ve swallowed something harmful, they can use an NG tube to try to remove it from your stomach or deliver treatments. For instance, they may administer activated charcoal through your NG tube to help absorb the harmful substance. This can help lower your chances of a severe reaction.
Your doctor or nurse can also use an NG tube to:
- remove a sample of your stomach contents for analysis
- remove some of your stomach contents to the relieve the pressure on an intestinal obstruction or blockage
- remove blood from your stomach
If you need to have an NG tube inserted, it will probably happen in a hospital. In some cases, you may get the tube inserted at home. In most cases, you won’t need to take any special steps to prepare. Right before it’s inserted, you may need to blow your nose and take a few sips of water.