What is a Dobhoff Tube?

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  • Written By: Patricia Ohanian Lundstrom
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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A Dobhoff tube is a small-bore, flexible, nasogastric (NG) feeding tube that typically has an inside diameter of about .15 inches (4 mm). It generally is used to administer nourishment and medicine to people who cannot ingest anything by mouth. The tube is inserted into the stomach by way of the nasal passage. Correct placement in the body is usually checked by an x-ray.

Unlike a tube used for gastrointestinal drainage, there is no suction attached to a Dobhoff tube. It is smaller and more flexible than other NG tubes, and therefore is usually more comfortable for the patient. The tube is inserted by use of a guide wire, called a stylet, which is removed after the tube’s correct placement has been confirmed.

A Dobhoff tube typically has a weighted end that helps guide it through the digestive system. This weight end was once made of mercury, but has since been replaced by a lead weight enclosed in silicone. Peristalsis — the involuntary relaxation and constriction of muscles — usually will help to move the weight through the esophagus into the stomach or beyond. The placement of a Dobhoff tube is most often into the stomach, although it is generally recommended that it be placed further on into the duodenum — the passage between the stomach and small intestines — in order to avoid any gastric reflux.


Depending on the practices of a medical facility, a Dobhoff tube can be inserted at a patient’s bedside by nursing staff or a physician. Because of the need to check the tube’s position via x-ray, the tube can also be inserted by fluoroscopy. Dobhoff tubes come with a radiopaque stripe, making them easily visible by x-ray.

Besides passing on nutrients, the tube can also be used to give a patient medicine. Any medicine that cannot be supplied in a liquid form can usually be broken down and dissolved in juice or water and fed into the tube. Care must be taken to avoid any blockage of the tube with residue; therefore, the tube should be flushed before and after administering medication.

Some complications which can occur during the insertion of a Dobhoff tube include entering a bronchial tube, perforating the pleura surrounding a lung, and not placing the tube far enough into the stomach, which can cause aspiration. This is the reason that 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.

The Dobhoff tube was introduced in the mid 1970s by surgeons Robert Dobbie and Jim Hoffmeister. It was the first small-bore feeding tube to be used successfully in hospitals. Although there is some disagreement over the spelling of the tube as either Dobhoff or Dobbhoff®, the most common usage is the former, whereas the latter is a registered trademark of Sherwood Services AG.


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Post 2

@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.

Post 1

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

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