Sterile water to flush feeding tubes?

  1. Why do we use sterile water to flush feeding tubes such as the j-tube? What happens if we use normal saline instead? I understand that sterile water is hypotonic and fluid will shift into the cells. NS is isotonic. On another note, I learned to flush NG tubes with NS. Why is there a difference in flush solutions if we are still instilling both into the GI tract?
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    About nursesky

    Joined: Dec '15; Posts: 6; Likes: 1

    13 Comments

  3. by   CelticGoddess
    Policy at my facility is to use tap water. It is not going into a sterile field, it is going into the GI tract. Actually, I've never been taught to use sterile water or saline.
  4. by   Okami_CCRN
    I flush feeding tubes with tap water as the gut is not sterile, unless the patient is immuno-compromised. Occasionally surgeons will request an NS infusion through a J-tube/G-tube to maintain patency at arouns 20ml/hr for about 24 hours.
  5. by   Libby1987
    Saline in the gut?

    We use tap or bottled. (Home health). I'm not sure if some tap water can cause residue if too high in certain minerals.
  6. by   NPOaftermidnight
    Here is a recent similar discussion:

    Sterile Water for Enteral Feeding Tubes?




    I have never flushed an NG/NJ/OG with saline. nor have I heard of anyone doing this.
  7. by   nursesky
    On the unit I am on for clinical, the policy is to use sterile water. Tap water does make sense to use since the GI tract is not sterile. But why do we use water (sterile or tap) to flush them? What happens if we use normal saline? That is my question.
  8. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from nursesky
    But why do we use water (sterile or tap) to flush them? What happens if we use normal saline? That is my question.
    Normal saline is isotonic...it has a similar composition to blood and is not appropriate for the GI tract due to lacking the osmotic gradient for proper absorption across the intestinal endothelium.

    So, if the normal saline is flushed as one bolus (and it usually is), it will work like a saline laxative in the patient's system. Read: patient will have loose stools.
  9. by   nlitened
    Policy at one of the hospitals I did clinical at was that if it was new (<2wk) use only sterile water, everything else just plain old tap water. But I only came across that at that particular hospital.
  10. by   ®Nurse
    This sounds like a perfect research into current Evidence Based Practice for gastric tube flush medium.



    A site like EBSCO, CINAHL, PubMed, etc., would be a great place to start.

    Typically, it takes over a decade for current EBP to be incorporated into practice.
    Be a leader, and find out from a few high level-of-evidence articles what the standard should be.
  11. by   BuckyBadgerRN
    I've never used sterile water to flush a tube. We don't drink sterile water!
  12. by   BuckyBadgerRN
    are you still in school? What do your instructors say, nursesky?

    Quote from nursesky
    On the unit I am on for clinical, the policy is to use sterile water. Tap water does make sense to use since the GI tract is not sterile. But why do we use water (sterile or tap) to flush them? What happens if we use normal saline? That is my question.
  13. by   ~PedsRN~
    Would you want to drink saline?
  14. by   Ellie G
    Sterile is not needed. The GI Tract is not a sterile environment. That's an awfully expensive flush

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