The nasogastric feeding tube as a risk factor for aspiration and aspiration pneumonia

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SummarySometimes it is possible to differentiate whether the aspirate is gastric or pharyngeal. The kind of bacterial contamination is, however, more difficult to establish. Oral or dental disease, antibiotic therapy, systemic illness or malnutrition and reduction of salivary flow are responsible for colonization of Gramnegative bacteria in oral and pharyngeal flora in nasogastrictube-fed patients. The use of a nasogastric feeding tube and the administration of food increase gastric pH and lead to colonization of gastric secretions. It has also been suggested that gastric bacteria could migrate upward along the tube and colonize the pharynx.Purpose of reviewAspiration is one of the most common complications in enterally fed patients. The source of aspiration is due to the accumulation of secretions in the pharynx of reflux gastric contents from the stomach into the pharynx. The true prevalence of aspiration is difficult to determine because of vague definitions, poor assessment methods, and varying levels of clinical recognition.Recent findingsThere is evidence in the literature showing that the presence of a nasogastric feeding tube is associated with colonization and aspiration of pharyngeal secretions and gastric contents leading to a high incidence of Gram-negative pneumonia in patients on enteral nutrition. However, other aspects may be equally important and should also be considered when evaluating a patient suspected of having aspiration and aspiration pneumonia. The mechanisms responsible for aspiration in patients bearing a nasogastric feeding tube are (1) loss of anatomical integrity of the upper and lower esophageal sphincters, (2) increase in the frequency of transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxations, and (3) desensitization of the pharyngoglottal adduction reflex.

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