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Comparing bedside methods of determining placement of gastric tubes in children


  • Disclosure: The authors report no actual or potential conflicts of interests.
  • Acknowledgement

    This research was funded by the National Institute for Nursing Research (Marsha Ellett, PI), NR08111, and by the General Clinical Research Center (Marsha Ellett, PI), M01 RR00750.



The purpose of this study was to compare the accuracy and predictive validity of pH, bilirubin, and CO2 in identifying gastric tube placement errors in children.

Design and Methods

After the tube was inserted into 276 children, the CO2 monitor reading was obtained. Fluid was then aspirated to test pH and bilirubin.


Lack of ability to obtain tube aspirate was the best predictor of NG/OG placement errors with a sensitivity of 34.9% and a positive predictive value of 66.7%. Measuring pH, bilirubin, and CO2 of tube aspirate was less helpful.

Practice Implications

Healthcare providers should suspect NG/OG tube misplacement when no fluid is aspirated.

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