800.765.8775

Ask the RD: How Can I Unclog a G-tube at Home?

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Shield HealthCare
01/31/13  9:15 PM PST
unclog a g-tube

How to unclog a G-tube

Feeding tubes can become clogged with dried formula and/or medications if not flushed properly. You may be able to unclog a G-tube yourself, using warm water.

You can also watch our video about how to unclog a G-tube at home:

Try these simple steps to unclog a G-tube at home:

  1. Attach a 60mL syringe to the feeding tube and pull back on the plunger to remove as much fluid as possible.
  2. Administer 10mL of warm water. Gently move the plunger back and forth to help loosen the blockage.
  3. If the blockage does not clear, clamp the tube for at least 5-15 minutes, allowing the warm water to soften the clog. If you can see the clog, massage that portion of the tube gently with your fingers.
  4. Unclamp the tube and repeat steps 2 and 3.

Prevent clogs by flushing the tube with water before and after each use, administering medications separately from one another and using diluted liquid forms of medications when possible.

Shield HealthCare | Medical Supplies For Care At Home Since 1957

DISCLAIMER: This information is designed for customer use only and does not represent the advice of a medical health professional. Please contact your doctor for explicit advice on your prescription and/or feeding program.

Comments

19 Comments

  1. robin
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 8:28 pm PST

    My son has a G-tube. He will have to have it replaced. Is this a risky surgery?

  2. Posted February 4, 2013 at 10:30 pm PST

    Hi Robin,
    Thank you for your question!
    The risk of any procedure depends on the individual. Generally, replacing a G-tube is a simple procedure, especially if it is a routine replacement due to the age of the tube or tube malfunction, such as clogging. Many times it involoves simply an outpatient procedure and a local anesthetic. How long has your son had his Gtube and what is the reason for the replacement?

  3. Shmuel
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 8:08 pm PST

    Hello,
    I have a general question about flushing feeding tubes.
    My mother has a thin nasal silicon feeding tube which is getting clogged from time to time.
    In the nursing home where she is staying, the procedure is to give her first the nutrition and THEN 200 mg of water, all with the pump drop by drop.
    Is this a good practice for flushing ?

    Logically thinking ( and only this I can do…) :
    – If you use a syringe to flush, there is the momentary high pressure but less time the inner part of the feeding tube soaked with water.
    – If you use the pump, no pressure at all but a lot of time inner part soaked with water.

    So, what is the effective way to do it ?
    Thank you.

  4. Posted December 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm PST

    Hi there,

    Thank you for your excellent question! Clogged feeding tubes are most commonly caused by medication. To prevent clogs caused by meds, the feeding should be stopped, the tube flushed with water, medications ideally administered separately from each other and with water and the tube flushed again with water before restarting the feeding. When the tube is not in use, it should be flushed with water at least every 4 hours to prevent clogs. The tube should also be flushed before and after each use, either via the pump/drip or with a syringe. Hope this helps!

  5. Von
    Posted June 18, 2015 at 2:32 pm PST

    Thank you for your help I was able to unclog the feeding tube with your help

  6. Aimee Sharp
    Posted June 18, 2015 at 10:52 pm PST

    Hello, Von. That’s great to hear! And we absolutely appreciate you taking the time to tell us that you found this article helpful. Our RD and author of this article was happy to hear your comment. Thanks again! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  7. James
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:07 am PST

    Hello, my daughter has a tube that goes through the stomach into the intestines. Not a simple one to replace and is a 3 hour drive from home to the nearest doctor that can replace it. Her tube is clogged. But not the one from the pump but the one that is through her nose and down past her stomach.
    We have tried sucking with a syringe-no luck, using warm water to try and dissolve the clog- no luck, and even a little coke to break down the clog- no luck.
    Any suggestions from there?

  8. Posted December 7, 2015 at 3:22 pm PST

    Hi James,

    Thank you for your question. I’m sorry you’re having trouble. Nasal tubes that feed into the small intestine are particularly at risk for clogging so it’s especially important to flush regularly with water. Check with your doctor about how much water to use and when but recommendations are usually to flush before and after every time you use the tube for formula or medications. When the tube is not in use, you should also flush it every few hours and keep the feeding and medication ports closed so that the inside of the tubing is not exposed to air. If medications go down the tube, you may want to go over the medication list with the doctor and/or pharmacist to be sure that all of them are safe to go down the tube. There may be different forms of her medications that are less likely to clog the tube. Water is always the best liquid to use, as acidic liquids such as soda or juice may make the clog worse, especially if dried formula is the reason for the clog. Lastly, you may want to avoid pulling back on the syringe with an intestinal tube as you risk the tube moving out of place. Unfortunately, once this kind of tube gets clogged it’s difficult to clear and may need to be replaced by your doctor. Ask your doctor about other methods to clear feeding tube clogs that may be more effective than warm water.

  9. Thelma Gantz
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 1:39 pm PST

    this really helps me today..

  10. Lisa Hernandez
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 2:56 pm PST

    the g tube is clogged but I haven’t been using it for feeding for 4 weeks since I’m now able to eat by mouth but I have 3 more weeks before they can take it out I do flush it with water 1 time a day but it seems it gets blockage in some of the tube from food from my stomach or something how can I unclog it

  11. Posted August 9, 2016 at 4:10 pm PST

    Hi Lisa, thank you for your question! Flushing the tube to prevent clogs is especially important when you’re not using it regularly. I would increase your flushing to a few times per day with at least 30-50 milliliters of water each time. If it does become clogged, warm water should help. Check out our video on unclogging a feeding tube: http://www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/nutrition/2015/12/03/tube-feeding-how-to-unclog-your-feeding-tube-video/. If you need additional info don’t hesitate to ask!

  12. franceska Sethman
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 12:49 am PST

    Our son got his tube placed in April and Mickey GJ in July. It seems as if within a week or a month we are needing it to be replaced. I know it needs to be replaced every 3-6 months but how do we extend these minor surgery dates? Each time we go in, he needs sedation (he’s severely autistic so a simple procedure isn’t so simple for us). It keeps getting clogged: no meds go to J ever, Dr even had us dilute formula to the point of taking away nutrition from it. He only gets feedings thru J, G is for liquid meds. We even had the J come up and back into stomach; thus needing another surgery 6 days after his last clogged replacement.
    Any quick words of wisdom? Thank you. I’ve done everything I can to prevent this by flushing 3-5x a day to diluting formula more. It’s pretty bad when his alarm goes off 3 times past few nights due to it starting again.
    ♡tubiemama18

  13. Posted September 19, 2016 at 10:13 am PST

    Thanks for your question! Great job flushing. If your son can handle more water you could do it even more often, like every 4 hours. Does he feed continuously or at intervals with the feeding pump? If there is any downtime without liquids going through the tubing that is the key time to flush. Also before and after every time you use it. If increasing the frequency of flushing doesn’t work, I wonder if the persistent clogging is related to where the tip of the tube is in his small intestine. You mentioned that it had migrated up the GI tract. If it’s not staying in place there may be increased risk of acidic fluids coming in contact with formula and causing a clog. What he uses now is weighted so usually that helps prevent tube migration. Has he tried any other brands of GJ tubes or any that are not low profile? Usually initial placement is with a standard tube (not low profile). What did he have when his tube was first placed and did you have problems with that? I can appreciate that he may need a low profile device to prevent pulling at the tube, however. Another idea: can the next replacement be done with a larger Fr size? One last thing to think about: he may have medical necessity for the GJ but just out of curiosity, has he tried a Gtube or is he able to feed into the stomach at all? Lastly, have you discussed your options with the GI doctor or the GI surgeon? It may take a specialist or a second opinion to come up with a workable solution. You can email me directly at rd@shieldhealthcare.com if you’d like to discuss further.

  14. Sandra Radzinski
    Posted September 26, 2016 at 12:06 am PST

    I had a g tube placed 9/23/16. Today it is severely clogged. I put my medicine that disolved in my tube and clogged it right up. My hospital is three hours away. The surgeon on call suggested warm water or even coke. Nothing works. Do I have anything to worry about since it is so new?

  15. Posted September 26, 2016 at 9:58 am PST

    Hi Sandra, I’m sorry this happened to you! Sometimes you may need to allow the warm water to sit in the tubing for a while. I’ve had a patient tell me that they let it sit for a few hours while they did something else. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure the form of the medication you used is ideal for the feeding tube. Some forms, such as extended release, or those that have an enteric coating do not dissolve well and clog the tube easily. You should also be sure to flush the tube with water before and after each medication dose. The medication should also be completely dissolved in water before administering down your tube. That said, if you are unable to unclog the tube yourself, is there a clinic or emergency room closer to you where they can try? Check with your doctor before attempting this.

  16. Posted August 7, 2017 at 12:15 am PST

    My stomach does not work or espougus my tube is put in my small intestine it got gets clogged after every feeding we can’t get unclogged again strings come up in syringe tried coke Diet Coke 3hours away to get changed what are we doing wrong have it the rest of my life tired 57 look 90 years old first worked great one we had is placement just hard to find sometimes when not during flush every 4 hours no problem today can’t flush at all

  17. Posted August 9, 2017 at 9:30 am PST

    Hi Steve, sorry you are having so much trouble! The trick to tubes going into your small intestine is regular flushing with water. That means every 4 hours even when not in use and before and after every time you put anything down the tube, esp with medications. That said, are you putting any medications down the tube? Those are often the culprit and you may be able to check with your Pharmacist or Doctor to see if there is a liquid form of the medication. Acidic juices or carbonated beverages have a risk of making the clog worse, esp if there is protein form the formula in the clog. You may also look at the formula you are using. If it’s concentrated, like a 1.5 cal per ml for example, you may want to ask your doctor dietitian about switching to a less concentrated formula or one that is partially broken down. If none of that works, you should consult with your GI surgeon that placed the tube. If you still have questions, please feel free to email me at rd@shieldhealthcare.com.

  18. Chasity johnson
    Posted November 2, 2017 at 10:59 am PST

    Hi I just got a g/j tube put in last week. I do all my meds but one in my j tube. I only use g-tube for venting. Well the one med I do by mouth is dexilant. I can’t swallow pills so I open up the capsule and swallow the balls that’s in there. Well now they are stuck in my g-tube. What do I do?

  19. Posted November 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm PST

    Hi Chasity, hopefully you were able to follow the tips outlined here to unclog your tube. It might be difficult to clear the tube of the capsule contents of your medication. It might be a good idea to contact your doctor or pharmacist to see if you can take an alternative to this particular medication or if it’s available in another form, such as liquid or powder.

Post Comment