A US Food and Drug Administration safety letter warned about the risk for pneumothoraces during feeding tube insertion despite the use of electromagnetic placement devices that provide real-time visualization of feeding tube position.


To systematically assess pulmonary placement and pneumothoraces in CORTRAK-assisted feeding tube insertions.


CINAHL, MEDLINE, and Cochrane databases were searched for studies of CORTRAK-assisted feeding tube insertion. Thirty-two studies documenting pulmonary placement and/or complications of feeding tube insertion were found.


Operators recognized pulmonary placement on insertion tracings during 202 CORTRAK-assisted feeding tube insertion procedures, resulting in the immediate withdrawal of 199 feeding tubes. One pneumothorax was identified later by radiography. Seven pulmonary placements were not recognized by CORTRAK operators at the time of feeding tube insertion, resulting in 2 pneumothoraces. The incidence of pneumothorax for CORTRAK-assisted feeding tube insertions was 0.02% (3 of 17039). Of the feeding tubes inserted into the pulmonary system – either found during or after the procedure −1.4% (3 of 209) resulted in pneumothoraces (as opposed to the 19% to 28% incidence of pneumothorax for blind feeding tube insertions. Operators recognizing pulmonary placement on CORTRAK insertion tracings may have prevented 97% (202 of 209) of feeding tubes from being inserted farther into the respiratory tract.


Feeding tube insertion with an electromagnetic placement device is advantageous over blind feeding tube insertion because the operator can recognize pulmonary placement early and withdraw the feeding tube, thus decreasing the risk of pulmonary complications.

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