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What is Tube Feeding?

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  • Written By: Simone Lawson
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Tube feeding is a method used for delivering medicine and nutritional supplements to those who are unable to ingest substances orally. The most common tube feeding procedure is percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy (PEG), in which a tube is inserted into the stomach directly through the abdominal wall. PEG is a method typically used when long-term feeding is required. Nasogastric (NG) is another method, in which feeding tubes are inserted into the nasal passageways and run down into the stomach.

PEG tube feeding is commonly used in patients who are recovering from oral cancers, head traumas, strokes or neurological diseases. The tube is inserted during a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which a silicone tube is placed into the stomach and extends out the through the abdomen. The end of the feeding tube is usually secured with tape on the outside of the abdomen. These tubes are generally undetectable when covered by clothing.

Water and liquid food formulas are usually inserted into the tube daily. Typically, a syringe is used to inject the formulas into the insertion area at the end of the tube. Some patients may receive liquid medicines to inject into the tube as directed by their doctor.

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Those with PEG feeding tubes should use caution when handling their tubes in order to avoid complications. The area should generally remain taped, except when administering liquids. The tube and surrounding areas on the abdomen should typically be cleaned once or twice a day. The area around the tube is typically cleaned with soapy water and cotton swabs, followed by thorough rinsing and drying. It is generally acceptable to bathe and shower normally with a PEG tube.

The NG method of tube feeding is typically employed for short-term use on patients with such conditions as anorexia nervosa or serious oral complications. The tube is inserted through the nasal passages fairly easily, with the patient typically receiving only mild anesthesia. Throat irritation and minor discomfort may occur as the result of NG feeding tubes but complications are generally mild, as this method is not typically used for more than several weeks at a time.

Drugs and smaller amounts of liquid are usually administered by a syringe into the injection tube. If continuous administration of fluids is necessary, a liquid bag may be used to release fluids slowly over time into the tube. This may be used in cases where high levels of antibiotics are required or if a patient is severely dehydrated.

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