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What Is a Dobhoff Tube?

By Patricia Ohanian Lundstrom
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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A Dobhoff tube is a flexible, small-bore nasogastric (NG) tube with an inside diameter of about 0.16 inches (4 mm). It is primarily used to administer nutrients or medicine to patients who are unable to ingest anything by mouth.

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

Uses of a Dobhoff Tube

In addition to providing nutrition, a Dobhoff tube can also be used to give a patient medicine. Any medicine that is not already available in liquid form can usually be dissolved in juice or water and fed into the tube. Dobhoff tubes should be flushed before and after administering liquid food or medication, in order to avoid blockage.

Unlike the 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 usually more comfortable for the patient.

Inserting a Dobhoff Tube

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

  • A guide wire, called a stylet, is used during insertion. The stylet is removed after the tube’s correct placement has been confirmed.

  • A Dobhoff tube has a weighted end that helps guide it through the digestive system. This weighted end consists of metal enclosed in silicone.

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

  • The end of the Dobhoff tube is often placed in the stomach, although it is generally recommended for it to be placed further on, in the duodenum, the section of the small intestines that is adjacent to the stomach, in order to avoid any gastric reflux.

  • After insertion, correct placement in the body is usually checked with the help of X-rays or fluoroscopy. Dobhoff tubes come with a radiopaque stripe, making them easily visible in X-rays.

Potential Complications

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

  • Entering a bronchial tube

  • Perforating the pleura surrounding a lung

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

Due to these potential complications, it is important to radiologically check the tube’s post-insertion position. In cases where the patient is using an enteral feeding tube for a long period of time, periodic re-checking of the position may be necessary.

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Discussion Comments
By BearingNorth — On Jul 15, 2010

@USBcable- No, the point of contention feeding tube in the Terri Schiavo case was a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) feeding tube. She was initially on a nasogastric feeding tube, but was switched due to her persistent comatose state.

By USBcable — On Jul 15, 2010

Was the Dobhoff Tube used to feed comatose Terri Schiavo during all that controversy a few years ago?

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