Tubed medical devices and children

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Medical tubing is used extensively to deliver therapy (nutrition, oxygen or medical substances) to children both in the hospital and at home.

Types of medical devices with tubing

Enteral feeding devices

Enteral feeding devices (known as an enteral feeding delivery set) deliver nutrition to patients who are unable to eat or swallow.

The set of tubing can be attached to a pump to give the young patient either milk/formula or nutritional formula. Tubing is inserted through the nose or mouth and passes directly to the stomach.

This device can also be used without a pump, as formula is given with a gravity bag and clamp.

Nasal cannulas and oxygenation devices

Nasal cannulas tubing devices have 2 prongs that sit in the nostrils. The prongs bring oxygen (high or low flow) into the nostrils.

This type of device is used to treat a wide range of conditions, such as:

It’s also used to help those who have difficulty breathing.

Intravenous (IV) delivery devices

IV tubing allows access to peripheral veins to deliver continuous or intermittent fluids or medication. This type of device is used in a wide variety of cases, such as to administer:

Risk of medical devices with tubing

Tubing from medical devices can accidentally wrap around a child and may cause entanglement, strangulation or death.

Health Canada has reviewed the potential risks posed by these types of devices. We looked at information from the Canadian incident reporting database, the U.S. incident reporting database and peer-reviewed literature.

As of September 1, 2022, no deaths due to this risk have been reported in Canada. However, 2 toddler deaths have been reported in the U.S. and near misses have been reported in Canada.

Managing the risk

While there have been few serious adverse events in Canada, the severity of this risk and the consequence to families and children is severe and life-altering.

To ensure young patients in Canada are as safe as possible, particularly in the home-care environment, Health Canada recommends the following.

Home caregivers

Health care providers

Reporting a serious adverse event

It’s important to monitor any issues with using tubed medical devices so you can take action before an adverse event happens.

Health Canada encourages you to report adverse events:

Report a medical device problem:

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