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Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2001 Nov;386(6):402-9. Epub 2001 Nov 8.

Nasogastric tube versus gastrostomy tube for gastric decompression in abdominal surgery: a prospective, randomized trial comparing patients' tube-related inconvenience.

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Department of General Surgery, Philipps-University Marburg, Baldingerstrasse, 35033 Marburg, Germany.



Perioperative decompression of the stomach is still a common procedure and can be achieved using either nasogastric tubes (NTs) or gastrostomy tubes (GTs). While both procedures appear to be equally effective, some authors believe that NTs are less convenient for patients than GTs. However, to date, no reliable prospective data are available on this issue.


We conducted a prospective, randomized trial comparing NTs versus GTs with a total of 110 patients undergoing elective colon surgery. The primary outcome measure was the patient's tube-related inconvenience and pain, assessed in a standardized interview on day 2 after surgery and quantified by means of a visual-analog scale (VAS). A questionnaire including the EORTC QLQ-C30 and additional items regarding retrospective tube-related judgements was administered on the day of discharge and 4 weeks after discharge. Secondary endpoints were the therapy-related morbidity and general complications.


When patients were asked which of their drainage tubes (all patients had three or four drainage tubes, such as decompression drains, urinary drains, central venous line) was most inconvenient, 43% (CI 33-53%) in the NT group reported that the NT was most inconvenient, while only 4% (CI 1-10%) of the GT patients judged the GT most inconvenient ( P<0.001, Chi(2) test). This effect was also found in VAS ratings of inconvenience and discomfort ( P<0.01). Also postoperatively (p.o.), NT patients evidenced less preference for their tube system (day 2 p.o.: 71%, CI 61-80%; 4 weeks p.o.: 66%, CI 56-75%) than did GT patients (day 2 p.o.: 94%, CI 88-98%; 4 weeks p.o.: 91% CI 84-96%); again, these differences were statistically significant ( P<0.02; Chi(2) test). No differences between groups emerged regarding global quality of life or conventional clinical outcomes.


This prospective randomized trial supports the clinical observation that NT causes more subjective inconvenience than GT. In cases when a prolonged postoperative ileus is expected, decisions for a prophylactic decompressing tube system have to weigh up the possibilities of different averse clinical as well as subjective outcomes. It is then preferable to include patients' preferences in the individual decision making process (shared-decision making).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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