The Nasogastric Tube
Last updated: April 2023
The one thing surgeons don't tell you about is the nasogastric tube. The nasogastric tube, otherwise known as a "NG tube" is placed in your stomach after surgery. What does that mean, you might be thinking?
So here's how it goes: A doctor would insert an NG tube into your stomach to decompress any air or fluid that is in your stomach after surgery.
There are other reasons for an NG tube, but it was inserted in me for that purpose. After all of my 11 surgeries, I awoke with an NG tube.
What is an NG tube?
It is a tube that is placed up your nasal cavity and down in your stomach. It is the worst feeling I have ever experienced. The tube brings up air, bile, and other stomach fluids. It drains all the yucky stuff into a canister.
It is a very uncomfortable feeling because you can feel the tube rubbing against the wall of your stomach. Also in my case, it gave me the worst sore throat!
How is the tube removed?
I remember one time; the doctors were going to remove the nasogastric tube. This requires the doctors to literally pull the tube up out of your stomach, and then through your nose. Not cool!
Before the doctors could remove it, they had to see how much bile was coming up per hour. If there were too much bile and stomach acid, they would not be able to remove the tube. If they did remove the tube too early, I could experience horrible nausea, bloating, and vomiting.
To see how I did without the NG tube, the doctors would "clamp it," so no bile or air would be allowed to come out of my body. If I didn't experience any nausea, vomiting, or bloating in 2 hours, the doctors would take the NG tube out.
My experience of needing a nasogastric tube
I remember during a quick 2-hour procedure to repair a small fistula, I woke up during the surgery. I woke up as they were inserting the nasogastric tube.
It was a horrible feeling because number 1, I was loopy from the anesthesia. Number 2, they were trying to keep me calm as I panicked.
The second bad experience I had was when I could not control my vomiting after they took out the nasogastric tube. This was after one of my surgeries. The doctors came in the room and told me the dreaded words, "We have to put the tube back in." Ugh!
To put the tube in manually, I had to be awake. And because I was sensitive, the doctors needed to invert the bed, so that the back of my head is almost touching the floor, and my feet are up in the hair. Weird right?
They told me to take a few gulps of water and keep swallowing until they said stop. I could feel the tube enter my nose and into my nasal cavity. It was a horrible feeling! The tube was in for so long, that my one nostril is actually shaped differently! No joke.
Tips for dealing with an NG tube
Keep your throat moist. Ask your doctor if you can suck on ice or hard candy. It will help with the discomfort. Has anybody else gone through such issues with their NG tube?
Does living with IBD impact you financially?