Impact of nasogastric tubes on swallowing physiology in older, healthy subjects: A randomized controlled crossover trial

Lee N. Pryor, Elizabeth C. Ward, Petrea L. Cornwell, Stephanie N. O'Connor, Mark E. Finnis, Marianne J. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background & aims: The presence of a nasogastric tube (NGT) affects swallowing physiology but not function in healthy young adults. The swallowing mechanism changes with increasing age, therefore the impact of a NGT on swallowing in elderly individuals is likely to be different but is not yet known. The aims of this study were to determine the effects of NGTs of different diameter on (1) airway penetration-aspiration, (2) pharyngeal residue, and (3) pharyngeal transit, in older healthy subjects. Methods: Randomized controlled crossover design. Healthy elderly volunteers underwent 3 modified barium swallow studies in which multiple diet and fluid consistencies were swallowed under the following conditions: (A) no NGT (control), (B) fine bore NGT, and (C) wide bore NGT. The control condition was assessed first to establish baseline swallowing function, then NGT order was randomly allocated. Results: Of the 15 volunteers (median age 65 years, range 60-81) complete data sets were obtained for 9 (4 with allocation order ABC; 5 with ACB). Wide bore NGT data could not be obtained for 6 volunteers mainly due to tube intolerance. The presence of a NGT was associated with: (i) an increase in airway penetration-aspiration (fine bore NGT with serial liquid swallows and puree) (. p<0.01); (ii) increased pharyngeal residue (. p<0.05) in the pyriform sinus (fine bore NGT with puree); and in the valleculae (both fine and wide bore NGT with soft solids); and (iii) an increase in pharyngeal transit duration regardless of consistency (. p<0.01), with longest swallowing durations with the widest tube. Conclusions: NGT presence increases airway penetration-aspiration, pharyngeal residue and prolongs transit through the pharynx in older healthy individuals. Consideration of NGT impact on swallowing during concurrent oral and enteral feeding is recommended, with further systematic investigation required in elderly patients recovering from critical illness.Clinical trial registry Australia & New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (. ACTRN12613000577718).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-578
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aspiration
  • DPR
  • DPT
  • DST
  • Elderly
  • Enteral nutrition
  • Nasogastric tube
  • NGT
  • PAS
  • PUR
  • PVC
  • RCT
  • Supplemental feeding
  • Swallowing
  • UES

Cite this