Feeding Tube: A life-saving alternative to natural feeding
Enteral feeding or tube feeding provides a life-saving alternative to natural feeding. It helps one get nutrition if he/she is having trouble eating naturally due to difficulties in swallowing or some type of surgery that forbids eating until recovery. This way, food in liquid form is delivered directly into the stomach or small intestine to help the body with the supply of sufficient nutrients.
Who can receive tube feeding?
Doctors may suggest tube feeding for patients of all ages including infants and very olds. People can survive well through this process. Depending upon the illness, tube feeding may be required for a temporary period or it may continue until the patient expires.
Different ways of enteral feeding
There are two ways of delivering liquid foods into the body using feeding tubes. They are:
- Inserting tubes through the nose - If the requirement is temporary(for up to a month), usually this type of feeding is recommended. For delivery of food to the stomach, the type of tube used is called the nasogastric tube or NG - tube. Similarly, for delivery of food to the small intestine, it is called a nasojejunal tube or NJ - tube.
- Inserting tubes through the skin - Doctors recommend this procedure if the requirement is for a longer time. The tube is inserted through a small incision near the abdomen and extended either to the stomach(gastrostomy) or to the small intestine(jejunostomy). The procedure is done endoscopically.
While Gastronomy and Jejunostomy require small surgeries for placement, NG - tubes or NJ - tubes do not require surgery and can be inserted by skilled hands and may cause some discomfort.
Gastronomy feeding tubes
Also called G - tubes or PEG tubes, these are recommended for use with both children and adults who require tube feeding for a long time. Gastronomy feeding tubes may also be used to avert a dangerous condition called aspiration. Aspiration occurs when one breathe some of the food or drink into the lungs due to a problem with the normal swallowing process. A PEG tube may be recommended for the following conditions:
- Congenital defects of mouth, esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
- Swallowing and sucking difficulties
- Failure to thrive
- Cancer of the mouth or esophagus
Preparations for Gastronomy procedure
Gastronomy feeding procedure is performed in a hospital or clinic. At CMC Lancaster our specialists will ask you about your current medications including the blood thinners. Any type of blood thinner or anti-inflammatory medications must not be taken for at least a week or so before the gastronomy procedure.
Our specialists will also know if you are pregnant or have certain conditions such as:
- Heart conditions
- Lung conditions
Your medications (including the insulins in case you are a diabetic) for the above will have to be adjusted on the day of the procedure. You will abstain from eating at least for eight hours before the procedure. Also, you will be advised to bring someone who can escort you home after your release because the procedure will be performed under anesthesia which may make you drowsy for some time. You will be released most likely on the same day as the procedure.