Development and validation of ester impregnated pH strips for locating nasogastric feeding tubes in the stomach: a multicentre prospective diagnostic performance study

Melody Ni, Mina E. Adam, Fatima Akbar, Jeremy R. Huddy, Simone Borsci, Peter Buckle, Francesca Rubulotta, Reuben Carr, Ian Fotheringham, Claire Wilson, Matthew Tsang, Susan Harding, Nichola White, George B. Hanna*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: NG (nasogastric) tubes are used worldwide as a means to provide enteral nutrition. Testing the pH of tube aspirates prior to feeding is commonly used to verify tube location before feeding or medication. A pH at or lower than 5.5 was taken as evidence for stomach intubation. However, the existing standard pH strips lack sensitivity, especially in patients receiving feeding and antacids medication. We developed and validated a first-generation ester-impregnated pH strip test to improve the accuracy towards gastric placements in adult population receiving routine NG-tube feeding. The sensitivity was improved by its augmentation with the action of human gastric lipase (HGL), an enzyme specific to the stomach.

Methods: We carried out a multi-centred, prospective, two-gate diagnostic accuracy study on patients who require routine NG-tube feeding in 10 NHS hospitals comparing the sensitivity of the novel pH strip to the standard pH test, using either chest X-rays or, in its absence, clinical observation of the absence of adverse events as the reference standard. We also tested the novel pH strips in lung aspirates from patients undergoing oesophageal cancer surgeries using visual inspection as the reference standard. We simulated health economics using a decision analytic model and carried out adoption studies to understand its route to commercialisation. The primary end point is the sensitivity of novel and standard pH tests at the recommended pH cut-off of 5.5.

Results: A total of 6400 ester-impregnated pH strips were prepared based on an ISO13485 quality management system. A total of 376 gastric samples were collected from adult patients in 10 NHS hospitals who were receiving routine NG-tube feeding. The sensitivities of the standard and novel pH tests were respectively 49.2% (95% CI 44.1‑54.3%) and 70.2% (95% CI 65.6‑74.8%) under pH cut-off of 5.5 and the novel test has a lung specificity of 89.5% (95% CI 79.6%, 99.4%). Our simulation showed that using the novel test can potentially save 132 unnecessary chest X-rays per check per every 1000 eligible patients, or direct savings of £4034 to the NHS.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalDiagnostic and Prognostic Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2021


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