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The esophagus connects the mouth with the stomach. The epiglottis closes over the trachea when a swallow occurs to prevent the swallowed substance from being inhaled into the lungs. When a person is unable to swallow because of illness or coma, a tube may be inserted either through the mouth or nose, past the epiglottis, through the esophagus to the stomach. Nutrients will pass through the tube directly into the stomach.
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital.