Health Information

Gastric suction

Gastric suction


Gastric suction is a procedure to empty the contents of your stomach.

Alternative Names

Gastric lavage; Stomach pumping; Nasogastric tube suction

How the Test is Performed

A tube is inserted through your nose or mouth, down the food pipe (esophagus), and into the stomach. Your throat may be numbed with medicine to reduce irritation and gagging caused by the tube.

Stomach contents can be removed using suction right away or after spraying water through the tube.

How to Prepare for the Test

In an emergency, such as when a person has swallowed poison or is vomiting blood, no preparation is needed for gastric suction.

If gastric suction is being done for testing, your doctor may ask you not to eat overnight or to stop taking certain medicines.

How the Test will Feel

You may feel a gagging sensation as the tube is passed.

Why the Test is Performed

This test may be done to:

  • Remove poisons, harmful materials, or excess medicines from the stomach
  • Clean the stomach before an upper endoscopy (EGD) if you have been vomiting blood
  • Collect stomach acid
  • Relieve pressure if you have a blockage in the intestines


Risks may include:

  • Breathing in contents from the stomach (this is called aspiration)
  • Hole (perforation) in the esophagus
  • Tube may be placed into the airway instead of the esophagus
  • Minor bleeding


Benson BE, Hoppu K, Troutman WG, et al. Position paper update: gastric lavage for gastrointestinal decontamination. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2013;51(3); 140-146. PMID 23418938

Mahvi DM, Krantz SB. Stomach. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 49.

Zeringe M, Fowler GC. Gastrointesinal decontamination. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger & Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2010:chap 202.

Review Date: 10/25/2014
Reviewed By: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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