The Venting Spill Nightmare: Stopping the Spill on Gastric Venting

Evi Dewhurst / October 2016

You’ve been there before: You finished the initial assessment on a new admission. The new patient was receiving nothing by mouth, but you knew expelled gastric fluid was on the way.

To prevent imminent spillage, you placed the feeding tube, attached a feeding syringe, and filled the syringe with gauze to contain the vented fluid that would soon appear.

It typically worked. Until it didn’t.

Like when those few drops became a slightly larger volume. That was when the gauze revealed its inherent weakness: it’s not leak-proof.

Say hello to vented fluid… everywhere.

How about for those enteral feeds? Even tied or rubber-banded syringes can become a feeding venting spill hazard, as explained by Patrice Hatcher, MBA, BSN, RNC-NIC. “Too many times I have held an infant throughout the gravity feed, returned them comfortably to their bed, and had half of the feed back-up into the barrel of the syringe that was still intact for venting.”

She continues, “Then almost without fail, this once quietly resting little angel starts to actively move, with hands stretching, and suddenly the syringe that was hanging drops… and whatever amount was in the syringe is in the bed, on the baby, all over the sidewall of the bed.  It all happens so fast, literally within the blink of an eye.”

Those are venting spill nightmares, and the result is wet bedding in all its frustrating glory. Even worse, the outcome can sometimes be a wet patient. No one is happy about that – especially a NICU baby!

It’s time to keep your neonatal patients’ vented fluid contained.

Keeping vented fluid contained is important for more than preventing the obvious mess. In fact, there are three more reasons it should be contained:

  1. Vented fluid volume assessment (especially after feeding)

    The nutrition intake of your patients can have serious impacts on health and long-term outcomes. Malnutrition affects a broad spectrum of health issues, including neurodevelopmental outcomes. This is the reason for such careful monitoring of feeding volumes, and even gastric residuals. Shouldn’t gastric venting be monitored as well?

    It’s pretty much impossible to gauge vented fluid volume when it’s been absorbed by a roll of gauze, soaked into bedding, or decorated the side of an isolette. If vented fluid could be contained, it would be easier for clinicians to view and measure the volume (and color). This information can keep nursing staff apprised of intake, potential feeding issues, and perhaps even provide early clues to unknown patient health issues.

    In addition, if vented fluid after a feed needs to be re-fed, it can’t be collected from the sheets!

  2. Nursing time and efficiency

    Got extra time during your shift? I didn’t think so. Nurses are already in highly stressful, multitasking positions. Add to that the constant pressure of maintaining the safety and health of their patients, and you’ve got someone who has no room for extra, unnecessary tasks.

    Like cleaning spilled venting fluid.

    Containing vented fluid will alleviate these spills, and remove one more unexpected chore from your daily tasks. That means more time for your patients.

  3. Unnecessary patient disruption

    NICU patients are in an environment designed to avoid over-stimulation. It’s meant to represent the sheltering womb, where their body temperature can be maintained, where sounds are a bit muffled, and infant bodies are gently cradled by supporting props, gentle arms, and soothing touch. Unnecessary (unplanned) movement is not recommended, especially when infants are sleeping!

    But unnecessary movement is exactly what happens when an unexpected bedding or clothing change is required, thanks to that gastric venting spill.

This pesky spillage problem needs a solution. What can nurses do to eliminate gastric venting spills from open-ended syringes?

All it takes is one thing: A syringe with a vented cap. Really!

Say goodbye to venting spill nightmares


Meet GraviFeed: a gravity feeding syringe with a snap-tight vented lid which allows for air flow, and thus gas and fluid movement. It’s ideal for closed gravity feeding and for an additional use: containing gastric venting fluids.

Hospitals have found the 10 mL GraviFeed syringes to be especially useful for gastric venting needs. The vented lid allows for air flow, and enables vented fluid to move freely through the feeding tube to syringe, all while keeping it contained.

Need to re-feed your post enteral feed vented fluid? That’s simple. Use the reusable primer to start the flow.

If you already use Medela enteral feeding syringes with plungers, the good news is that you can purchase the vented caps separately. They were designed to attach to Medela GraviFeed and plunger syringes. (You can view GraviFeed syringe sizes and cap options here)

That leaves you with a closed collection method for vented fluid assessment, nursing efficiency, and prevented patient disruption. Say goodbye to venting spill nightmares!

Learn more about the GraviFeed syringe and how it can meet your venting needs

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