Difference Between OG and NG Tubes: Understanding the Differences

If you are familiar with feeding methods, you may have wondered what the differences between an orogastric (OG) tube and a nasogastric (NG) tube are. While these two feeding methods are quite similar overall, there are some key differences that are worth pointing out, some of which are obvious and others less so. In this post, we’ll explain the key differences between an OG tube and an NG tube and discuss their similarities as well.

Differences Between OG Tubes and NG Tubes

Here are the crucial differences between these feeding tube options.

Insertion Method

The most noticeable difference between an OG tube and an NG tube is their method of insertion. As the two names of these feeding tubes imply, an orogastric feeding tube inserts via the oral cavity, while a nasogastric tube inserts via the nasal passage. This primary difference helps to define each of these tube options and gives rise to the other differences we’ll mention in this section.

With that said the insertion processes for OG and NG tubes are nearly identical beyond the insertion point. Likewise, it is critical to get the insertion and overall placement process correct before using either of these tubes for feeding.

OG and NG tube misplacements are more common than we would like to believe, and when it occurs, it can cause one or more complications. To avoid those complications, you should have your tube placement performed by a medical professional or someone who is fully aware of what a proper placement process entails.

Additionally, you should take great care to test the placement of your NG or OG tube before performing any feedings. Traditional testing means include using X-ray machines, but alternatives such as pH tests are more convenient and safer for the patient.

Misplacement Rate

Misplacement is something that you should actively avoid during the use of either an NG or an OG tube. However, it is worth knowing that misplacement rates tend to be slightly higher when using an OG tube compared to using an NG tube, as one study of preterm infants found.

Since misplacement is one of the biggest causes of feeding tube complications, this potential difference in placement rate success may be enough for you to prefer an NG tube over an OG tube. However, there are also arguments that go the other way as well, as you’ll soon see.

Ease of Respiration

Another potential difference between NG and OG tube use is the ease of respiration that the person will experience after the placement has taken place. Since an NG tube enters the body through the nose, it will naturally reduce the overall volume of oxygen that the nose can bring into the body with each breath.

That issue is not nearly as present when using an OG tube. Since the OG tube enters the oral cavity and takes up less relative space within that cavity, the person’s nose is able to function normally, and they are less likely to experience breathing problems.

Ease of respiration may not be a concern for some who use NG or OG feeding tubes. However, if you have a preexisting respiratory condition, it may be advantageous to select a feeding tube that is least likely to further interfere with your ability to intake oxygen.

Feeding Rates

The same study of preterm infants that we mentioned earlier made another interesting discovery about the difference between NG and OG tubes. It found that babies that used NG tubes were able to gain weight more quickly than those that used OG tubes.

It is not fully clear why it is the case that the NG tube was able to achieve that result. However, the finding seems to suggest that NG tubes may be slightly more effective overall for supplying nutrients than OG tubes are.

Similarities Between OG and NG Tubes

NG and OG feeding tubes are more alike than they are different. As such, we have taken the time to outline a few ways that NG and OG tubes are alike.

NG and OG Tubes Have the Same Fundamental Function

The main way that NG and OG tubes are similar is that they serve the same role in the medical industry. Both of these tubes give those who have lost the ability to eat and drink normally to ingest the fluids and nutrients that they need to survive.

Along with that fundamental function, these tubes can also allow people to take medications when they are unable to swallow. NG and OG tubes can also be used to remove air from the stomach if need be.

Based on those primary uses, NG and OG tubes are essentially interchangeable solutions in many scenarios. The choice of which to use may very well come down to the few differences we mentioned earlier.

NG and OG Tubes Are Useful for Short-Term Feeding

Another similarity between OG and NG tubes is the length of time for which you should use them. In most cases, NG and OG tubes are intended to be used for about 4 to 6 weeks. After that period is over, the person will either need to remove or replace whichever type of tube they are using.

NG and OG Tube Materials and Construction Are Generally the Same

NG and OG tubes are also alike in their appearance and overall structure. In fact, in many situations, you may not be able to distinguish the difference between these tubes at all.

Both NG and OG tubes consist of long, thin tube materials that feature end tips that are designed for easy entry into the body. The defining difference then becomes the very method of entry, whether by mouth or nose.

How OG and NG Tubes Differ from Other Feeding Options

There are plenty of similarities and differences between NG and OG tubes that we can discuss. However, these two feeding tube options are very similar overall. For that reason, it is also helpful to understand how these feeding tubes differ from other feeding options.

For example, when it comes to short-term nutrient supply, a feeding tube is not always necessary. As an alternative, an intravenous feeding method can be incredibly convenient and effective.

On the other hand, there are scenarios in which someone will need a feeding tube for longer periods of time. In those cases, a long-term feeding tube, such as a gastric feeding tube, is a better option.

Gastric tubes are not only better for long-term use, but they also insert into the body differently. While NG and OG tubes enter via the nose and mouth, respectively, gastric tubes insert through the side of the abdomen via a surgical procedure. One advantage of this approach is that the person’s mouth and nose will remain unobstructed while using the gastric feeding tube.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use a feeding tube, as well as the decision of which one will be most advantageous, is a decision that you must reach with the guidance of an experienced healthcare provider. However, understanding the differences between these options will help you better understand which option is ideal for you.

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