Feeding tube blockages
Last edited: 16/12/2022
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What causes my tube to block?
The most common cause for blocked feeding tubes is built up feed or medications.
A blockage may also occur if Candida, or commonly known as thrush, builds up within the tube. It is likely the tube will need to be replaced. Please contact us if you have any concerns.
How do I prevent my tube from blocking?
Regular water flushes help to keep your tube clear of feed or medications. In addition, your GP should prescribe your medications in a suitable form to go down your tube, for example liquid or dispersible tablets, to prevent a blockage.
Remember to flush the tube:
- before and after each feed
- before, after and between each medication.
If feeding is not in progress it is recommended that the tube is flushed at least once a day to ensure it remains clear. Your dietitian will advise you how much water you need and when to give it. You may be asked to flush more frequently if required.
What should I do if my tube becomes blocked?
The following tips can help clear a feeding tube which has become blocked with feed or medications.
Milking the tube
Use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze and roll along the length of the tube until the blockage is cleared.
Push and pull technique
Fill a 50ml syringe with warm water from the kettle (which has been boiled and left to cool for 20 minutes). Connect it to the tube. Push and pull on the syringe (like using a bicycle pump) to try to dislodge the blockage. It may take up to 30 minutes before the tube becomes unblocked. Never force the syringe as this may damage the tube.
If the blockage persists, try flushing the tube with soda water. Leave it for 20 to 30 minutes to help dissolve the blockage. Then using the push pull technique, flush the tube with warm water (follow the instructions above). Never flush with sugary drinks such as cola or lemonade as these may cause the tube to breakdown and make the blockage worse.
Submerge in warm water
Submerging the blocked part of the outer tubing in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes may soften the blockage and enable one of the methods above to work more effectively.
What should I do if I can’t unblock my tube?
If none of the methods above work, contact Abbott or Nutricia.
Alternatively, your community nurse, the Home Enteral Nutrition Service or your GP can advise you. You may have to go to hospital for a new tube or a community venue for a tube replacement if you have a balloon gastrostomy.
Do you have feedback about our health services?
Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)
Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust
Trinity House, 110-120 Upper Pemberton