In certain cases it is necessary to pass a tube into the stomach or intestines. The importance of this procedure when indicated cannot be overemphasized. In many cases the procedure is life-saving; it often makes possible operations which otherwise would not be feasible, and indeed it prevents complications in many instances.
You must realize the importance of Stomach and Intestinal Intubation when your surgeon orders it. Your co-operation in placing the tube will make the procedure much easier and lessen the discomfort to you. The stomach tube is used mainly for decompression of the stomach and bowel, but it may also be necessary for diagnostic aids and tube feedings. Decompression of the stomach and the bowel is imperative after operation on these organs, and in cases of peritonitis, perforated stomach or intestine, paralyzed bowel, and persistent vomiting. The diagnostic uses of the stomach tube are to determine the amount of acid in the stomach contents, the amount and the consistency of the contents, and the presence of blood or bile in the stomach. It is also useful in conjunction with x-ray pictures for outlining the stomach and the bowel and measuring their motility, through the use of a substance opaque to x-rays. The tube is often used for feeding purposes so that liquid foods may be instilled below an operation site in the bowel, and in cases of delirious or comatose patients. The stomach tube is of soft rubber about 1/2 inch in diameter, and about 3 feet long. The intestinal tube is of similar construction but several feet long. The intestinal tube has an inflatable bag on the end of it which can be inflated after it is in the bowel to produce more bulk so that the intestinal movements will pass it on. If the stomach tube is to be inserted for just a short period of time, it may be introduced through the mouth, but usually these tubes are introduced through the nose, and pass into the throat and down the esophagus to the stomach. This may seem like a difficult procedure for you to go through, and when you see the attendant come in with the tube, you may think it impossible, but actually it is not difficult at all, and after the tube is in place, you will wonder why you dreaded it so. The procedure is entirely painless.
The procedure for either the stomach or the intestinal tube is the same at first; and the tube is inserted with you in the semi-sitting position in bed. The tip of the tube is lubricated and then gently passed into one nostril. There may be a slight stinging sensation, but it will quickly pass. When you feel the tube reach your throat, you will be given water to swallow. As you continue to swallow the tube will pass right down to your stomach. Just remember to keep swallowing, either water or nothing, and you will not gag. After it is in place it may take a few more swallows to get it adjusted to one side of your throat. With the stomach tube, the stomach specimen is then withdrawn; and if the tube is to remain in place, it is taped to the face to prevent accidental dislodgement, and suction is attached. With the intestinal tube, you will be asked to lie on your right side so that the tube will more readily pass out of the stomach into the small intestine. Suction will be attached and x-ray films may be taken to check the progression of the tube. Periodically the tube may be passed farther. In a very short time you will forget you have the tube, as the discomfort is minimal. Never tamper with the tube after it is in place. If you think something is not correct, call for the nurse to check it. Your co-operation will pay you great dividends if a stomach or intestinal tube is needed in your case.