What if the balloon leaks or ruptures? (all tubes)

Silicone balloons may last several months, but the life span of the balloon can be affected by various factors such as medication, gastric pH, infection and tube care. It is recommended that you have a replacement feeding tube available in case of accidental tube removal or failure. If the gastrostomy (G) tube fails and you have been properly trained, you may replace the tube. If you have not been properly trained or your clinician prefers to replace the tube, you should contact your clinician as soon as possible as the stoma may begin to close within 2-4 hours. GJ and J tubes cannot be replaced at home.  If you suspect a leak or tube failure with one of these devices, consult your care team immediately.

How do I prevent the feeding tube from becoming clogged? (all tubes)

Proper tube flushing is the best way to avoid clogging the tube. This is especially true for GJ and J tubes.  Flush the tube with water every 4-6 hours during continuous feeding, before and after every intermittent or bolus feeding, or at least every 8 hours if the tube is not being used.

The feeding tube should also be flushed before and after delivery of medications and after checking for stomach residuals. Medications should be given in liquid form. If a medication is only available in tablets or capsules, make sure it can be crushed and mixed with water. Medication should not be mixed with formula. Never crush enteric-coated medication. Before and after giving medication, the port should be flushed with water.

When flushing a tube, use water and a 20 ml or larger syringe. Do not use smaller sizes as this can increase pressure on the tube and potentially rupture the tube. The amount of water used to flush the tube will depend on the individual’s needs, clinical condition and type of tube, but the average volume ranges from 10-50 ml for adults, and 3-10 ml for children. Do not use excessive force to flush the tube as this can perforate the tube and can cause injury to the gastrointestinal tract.

How do I unclog a MIC-KEY* G tube?

If a MIC-KEY* G tube does become clogged:

  • Attach an extension set to the feeding port. Attach a 20 ml or larger syringe filled with warm water into the extension set and gently pull back on, then press the plunger to dislodge the clog.
  • If the clog remains, repeat the previous step. Gentle suction alternating with syringe pressure will relieve most obstructions.
  • If this fails, consult your clinician and consider trying a solution like Clog Zapper. Do not use cranberry juice, cola drinks, meat tenderizer or chymotrypsin, as these can actually cause clogs or create adverse reactions in some cases.
  • If the clog is stubborn and cannot be removed, the tube will have to be replaced.

NOTE: The short length of gastric (G) feeding tubes make them quite clog-resistant. The jejunal feeding tubes (GJ and J tubes) must be monitored carefully to prevent clogging.

What if the balloon will not deflate? (all tubes)

If water cannot be extracted from the balloon with the syringe, make sure the recess in the balloon valve is clean and that the valve is not blocked by nutrition or debris. Clean inside the recess, then firmly seat the syringe into the valve, push and twist a quarter turn. Try pulling on the plunger again. If the balloon will not deflate and you have a gastrostomy (G) tube that you have been trained on how to replace, use the end of a large paper clip to depress the valve and release the water. Replace your G tube as instructed.  For balloon issues with GJ or J tubes, consult your care team.

What is the best body position during feeding? (all tubes)

Correct feeding position is important to avoid aspiration of stomach contents through the esophagus and potentially into the lungs. When feeding, maintain an upright position or at least at a 30-degree angle during, and one hour after feeding.