Nurses Help Investigate Alternatives To X-Ray Verification Of Feeding Tubes In Pediatrics


As anyone who has worked in pediatrics knows, children who require feeding tubes during prolonged hospital stays often remove these tubes–even several times a day. An x-ray scan is considered the gold standard method of confirming that the tube has been placed properly, but there is a strong effort in pediatrics to avoid unnecessary radiation exposures for children. This makes use of x-rays after repeated tube insertions problematic. Yet, children have had fatal consequences to feeding tubes being inserted improperly into their lungs.

Nurses in several pediatric units at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital recently contributed their time and clinical expertise to support a national study that is investigating best practices in the verification of feeding tube location in pediatrics. More than 20 nurses and graduate students combined to collect data on pediatric patients in various units last month.

Cynthia LaFond, Manager for Nursing Research at the Center for Nursing Professional Practice and Research, coordinated the cross-medical campus investigation. “This study is one example of the power of nursing research,” she said. “When nurses from across the nation come together with parents/patients and scientists from other disciplines to bring attention to a clinical problem, share data, and design solutions, we can make a difference in patient care, even save lives.”

Their findings have been submitted to the Prevalence of Nasogastric Feeding Tube Use in U.S. Pediatric Hospitals study. Data from the study will be used to collaborate with engineers from MIT, Stanford, UPENN, and Cincinnati to design technologies to confirm feeding tube placement without x-ray.

“This study was a success because of the collaboration of the individuals involved,” LaFond said. “We received support from our nursing leaders and physician colleagues and data collection assistance from charge nurses, clinical nurse educators, advanced practice nurses, graduate nursing students, and nurse researchers. The nurses on all of the units were welcoming and very helpful.”

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