What is a Dobhoff tube?

A Dobhoff tube is a flexible, small-hole nasogastric (NG) tube with an inside diameter of about 0.16 inches (4 mm). It is primarily used to administer nutrients or medication to patients who are unable to take anything by mouth.

The Dobhoff tube was introduced in the mid-1970s by surgeons Robert Dobbie and James Hoffmeister, who combined their surnames to create “Dobhoff”. The Dobhoff tube was the first small-bore feeding tube to be used successfully in hospitals.

Uses of a Dobhoff tube

A Dobhoff tube is a type of nasogastric tube inserted into the stomach through the nasal passage.

In addition to providing nutrition, a Dobhoff tube can also be used to deliver a drug to the patient. Any medication that is not already available in liquid form can usually be dissolved in juice or water and placed in the tube. Dobhoff tubes should be rinsed before and after administration of liquid food or medication to prevent blockages.

Unlike tubes used for gastrointestinal drainage, there is no suction attached to a Dobhoff tube. It is smaller and more flexible than other NG tubes, so it is generally more comfortable for the patient.

Inserting a Dobhoff tube

A Dobhoff tube can be inserted at the patient’s bedside by a nurse or physician. The tube is inserted into the stomach through the nasal passage.

A guidewire, called a stylet, is used during insertion. The stylet is removed after confirmation of correct tube placement.

A Dobhoff tube has a heavy end that helps guide it through the digestive system. This weighted end consists of silicone-wrapped metal.

Peristalsis, the involuntary constriction and relaxation of muscles, helps move weight through the esophagus and into the stomach or beyond.

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The end of the Dobhoff tube is often placed in the stomach, although it is generally recommended that it be placed further down the duodenum, the section of the small intestine adjacent to the stomach, in order to prevent any gastric reflux.

After insertion, correct positioning in the body is usually verified with the help of X-rays or fluoroscopy. Dobhoff tubes come with a radiopaque band, making them easily visible on X-rays.

Potential Complications

Some complications that can occur during the insertion of a Dobhoff tube include:

Entering a bronchial tube

Piercing the pleura around a lung

Not placing the tube far enough into the stomach, causing aspiration.

A doctor or nurse can insert a Dobhoff tube at the patient’s bedside.

Because of these potential complications, it is important to radiologically verify the post-insertion position of the tube. In cases where the patient has been using an enteral tube for a long time, a periodic recheck of the position may be necessary.

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