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Sterile water to flush feeding tubes?

Updated | Posted
by nursesky nursesky (New) New

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?

CelticGoddess, BSN, RN

Specializes in Palliative, Onc, Med-Surg, Home Hospice. Has 6 years experience.

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.

Okami_CCRN, ADN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 4 years experience.

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.

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.

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.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

nursesky said:
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.

Policy at one of the hospitals I did clinical at was that if it was new (

This sounds like a perfect research into current Evidence Based Practice for gastric tube flush medium.

๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

BuckyBadgerRN, ASN, RN

Specializes in HH, Peds, Rehab, Clinical. Has 4 years experience.

I've never used sterile water to flush a tube. We don't drink sterile water!

BuckyBadgerRN, ASN, RN

Specializes in HH, Peds, Rehab, Clinical. Has 4 years experience.

Are you still in school? What do your instructors say, nursesky?

nursesky said:
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.

~PedsRN~, BSN, RN

Specializes in Acute Care Pediatrics. Has 4 years experience.

Would you want to drink saline? :)