Caring for Your Drainage Gastrostomy Tube

This information will help you care for your drainage gastrostomy tube (g-tube).

Figure 1. A drainage gastrostomy tube

A drainage g-tube is a tube that is put into the stomach to drain stomach juices and fluids (see Figure 1). It will help relieve the nausea and vomiting caused by a blockage in your bowel (intestines). This will make you feel more comfortable.

With a drainage g-tube, you will be able to drink liquids and eat soft foods or foods that have been mixed in a blender. However, these liquids and foods will only give you a small amount of nutrition. This is because most of what you drink and eat will drain through the tube into a drainage bag. A member of your healthcare team will teach you how to get the nutrition you need.

There are different types of g-tubes. Depending which type you have, there will be different connections. Your nurse will teach you about the type of g-tube you have. Your nurse will also give you the following supplies to take home:

  • 1 box of 4 x 4 gauze
  • 1 roll of 1-inch tape
  • 1 60 mL irrigation syringe
  • 2 drainage bags
  • 2 caps to fit your g-tube
  • 1 Cath-Secure®
  • Polyderm dressing

Your doctor may also prescribe pain medication to relieve discomfort around your drainage g-tube.

Caring for Your Skin Around Your Drainage G-Tube

Inspect your skin

Look closely at your skin around your g-tube everyday. If you see any redness, swelling, or pus (thick, yellow or white drainage), tell your healthcare provider.

Clean your skin

Clean you skin everyday following the instructions below:

  1. Remove the old bandage around your g-tube. It is normal to see fluid or mucus stains on the bandage. It’s also normal to see old blood or crusting around the g-tube.
  2. Wash the skin around your g-tube with soap and water, removing any fluids or crusting. Gently pat it dry.
  3. Cover your insertion site with a 4 x 4 gauze pad or Polyderm border foam dressing.
  4. Loop the tube and secure it with tape or a Cath-Secure.

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Caring for the Drainage Bag

Emptying the drainage bag

Empty the drainage bag when it is about ⅓ to ½ full or about every 8 hours, whichever comes first.

Cleaning and changing the drainage bag

Clean the drainage bag once a day if you’re eating soft foods. If you’re not eating, clean the bag every 3 to 4 days.

To clean the bag:

  1. Mix 1 part white vinegar with 3 parts cool water.
  2. Soak your bag in this solution for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Allow the bag to dry.

You may feel nauseous or have some discomfort when your g-tube is capped (not open to drainage) while you clean and dry the bag. If so, attach another bag.

Change the bag once a week.

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Flushing Your Drainage G-Tube

Your doctor may instruct you to flush your g-tube. If so, follow the instructions below:

  • Flush your g-tube at least once a day. You may need to flush it more often if thick stomach juices or mucus clog it, or if you feel nauseous or full and don’t feel better after sitting up.
  • To flush your g-tube, follow the instructions below:
    1. Gather the supplies you need:
      • 30 to 60 mL of water (or the amount instructed by your healthcare provider)
      • 1 60 mL syringe
      • 1 plastic cap for the tube
      • 1 clean drainage bag
      • Paper towels
    2. Empty the drainage bag.
    3. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water.
    4. Place the paper towels under your g-tube to absorb any drainage.
    5. Draw up 30 to 60 mL of water into the syringe, as instructed by your healthcare provider.
    6. Clamp your g-tube.
    7. Disconnect your g-tube from the drainage bag and set the drainage bag to the side.
    8. Insert the syringe into the opening of your g-tube.
    9. Unclamp the g-tube and push the plunger of the syringe gently.
    10. Clamp your g-tube.
    11. Remove the syringe and reconnect your g-tube to the drainage bag.
    12. Unclamp your g-tube and allow it to drain.
  • If your g-tube is not draining anything, or if you were nauseous and it didn’t get better after flushing it, call your healthcare provider.
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Eating and Drinking with Your Drainage G-Tube

Your doctor will tell you when you can start drinking clear liquids after your procedure. Clear liquids include drinks such as ginger ale, apple juice, coffee, tea, broth, flavored ice, and gelatin (such as Jell-O®).

Sit up when you drink or eat to allow the foods or liquids to drain into the drainage bag. Remain sitting up for 20 to 30 minutes after you eat. If you don’t, you may feel nauseous. If you feel nauseous, check to make sure your g-tube is not kinked. This should make you feel better.

Once you’re able to drink clear liquids without any problems, slowly increase your diet to include any liquids. If you have not had any problems after 2 days, you can start eating soft or puréed foods. Purée your foods in a blender or food processor. You can find more information in the resource Eating Guide for Puréed and Mechanical Soft Diets.

If you eat food that is not puréed, you must eat it in tiny pieces and chew it very well. Eat very small portions at a time. Do not eat more than 4 cups of food or drink more than 1 liter (33.8 ounces) of liquids in 24 hours. Each time you eat or drink, you will lose important nutrients. This is because they drain into the drainage bag with the food or liquid.

Most of what you eat and drink will drain through the tube into the drainage bag. For example, if you eat red gelatin, the drainage in the bag will be red. Stomach juices will drain into the bag even if you have not eaten. The color of your stomach juices will range from green to dark yellow.

Most people will need to have intravenous (IV) fluids while they’re at home so they do not become dehydrated. You may have an implanted port (such as a Mediport®) or other IV access such as a central venous catheter (CVC) put in to give you these fluids. If you need IV access, your doctor will talk with you about having one placed while you are in the hospital.

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Taking Medication with Your Drainage G-Tube

You can swallow medication tablets; however, you must clamp your tube first and leave it clamped for 15 to 30 minutes afterwards.

Call Your Doctor or Nurse Immediately if:

  • You have a temperature of 101° F (38.3° C) or higher
  • You have shakes or chills
  • Your g-tube becomes dislodged or falls out
  • You have any signs of bleeding
  • You have pain at where your g-tube goes into your stomach that does not get better with the medication you were prescribed
  • You have nausea and vomiting that is worse than usual
  • You have any signs of redness, swelling, oozing, or pus on your skin around the tube
  • You need to change your bandages more than 3 times a day or your g-tube keeps leaking
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