How Do Doctors Pump Your Stomach?

During a stomach pumping procedure, medical staff insert a plastic tube into a patient’s stomach via the nose or mouth, extending it down the esophagus, explains Healthline. Next, a suctioning device is used to extract material from the stomach. Saline may be deposited into the stomach to prevent electrolyte imbalances.

Stomach pumping, or gastric suction, is most often administered as a form of emergency treatment when a person ingests toxic substances or experiences a drug overdoes, according to Healthline. The procedure is also used to remove blood from the stomach during a hemorrhage or when a patient vomits blood during an endoscopy.

Stomach pumping is most effective for cases of toxic poisoning when performed within the first four hours after ingestion, notes Healthline. Past this point, it is likely the poison has left the stomach and entered the bloodstream, making it much more difficult to clear from a person’s system.

Certain surgeries require that people have some or all of their stomach tissue removed, in which case a postsurgical tube remains in the esophagus to regularly empty the stomach of its contents while it heals, according to Healthline.

Stomach pumping can cause serious complications such as esophageal punctures, aspiration pneumonia, vocal cord spasms and bleeding, states Healthline. It is also possible for the tube to accidentally enter the airway rather than the esophagus.