Tube feeding using a nasogastric or nasojejunal tube

Nasogastric or nasojejunal tubes go from your nose to different parts of your digestive tract so you can have special liquid food (feed), medicines and fluids.

When are nasogastric or nasojejunal tubes used?

You may need a feeding tube if you cannot eat or drink enough through your mouth to meet your nutrition needs. These tubes are generally used for a short time.

There are many reasons you may have a feeding tube, including being too sleepy to eat or the risk of breathing in food or drinks (aspiration). Other causes may be high nutrition requirements, poor food intake or a blockage in your food pipe.

What is a nasogastric or nasojejunal tube?

These tubes go down your nose to your stomach or intestine. You can have special liquid food (feed), medicines and fluids down these tubes.

Nasogastric (NG) tube 

A small flexible tube goes down your nose to the back of your throat, down your food pipe (oesophagus) and into your stomach. 

Nasojejunal (NJ) tube 

A small flexible tube goes down your nose, to the back of your throat, down your food pipe (oesophagus), through your stomach and into your small intestine (jejunum). A NJ tube is used when you can’t use your stomach. An x-ray or camera is used to guide the placement.

How is the feeding tube inserted?

As the tube goes down you may need to sip water. The procedure usually takes 20–30 minutes. Inserting the tube may briefly cause slight discomfort. Light sedation or numbing spray can be provided if needed.

The pH (acidity) level is checked, or you will have a chest x-ray to confirm the tube is in your stomach.

The tube is secured to your cheek using tape. It is important to record the tube’s length or mark the tube at the tip of your nose.

What are the different types of feeding?

The main types of feeding are bolus feeding, pump feeding or a combination of both. A dietitian will help you decide what is best for you and that will meet your nutritional needs. Only prescribed medicines, feed and water should be given down your tube. You will need to sit up or have your upper body at a 30-degree angle during feeding and for at least 30 minutes after.

Bolus feeding using a syringe

A set amount of feed is given at certain times during the day, like having regular meals and snacks. Gravity can be used to provide the feed – poured into the syringe like a funnel, or pushed through a syringe with the plunger.

Pump feeding

The feed is slowly given over several hours to deliver a set amount using a special feed pump.

A special tube (giving set) is connected to the feed through the pump and then to the feeding tube. You will need a new giving set each day.

Your nurse, dietitian or nutrition company representative will teach you how to use the feeding pump. Written instructions are also given.

Trouble shooting 

NG and NJ tube feeding are safe procedures, but they carry some risks. There is the risk your tube isn’t in your stomach. This is why the tube placement if checked before it is used.

If the tube’s length changes from the mark at your nose, or has moved or is blocked, let your doctor or nurse specialist know and don’t use the tube.

Learn more

Tube feeding with a nasogastric or nasojejunal tube HealthInfo Canterbury, NZ
Tube feeding KidsHealth, NZ

Reviewed by

Nicola Brown has worked as a clinical dietitian in various areas, all within hospitals throughout New Zealand and the UK. Over the past 12 years, she has supported patients with their nutritional needs at Auckland Regional Cancer and Blood Services.
Top image: Illustration by Chris Gralapp, Patient Safety Network
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Lydia Gillan, NZ Registered Dietitian, Auckland DHB and Nicola Brown. NZ Registered Dietitian, Auckland DHB Last reviewed: 23 Mar 2021