What is a Gastric Feeding Tube?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A gastric feeding tube is a medical device which is inserted into a patient's stomach to supplement his or her diet. Feeding tubes are used on patients who cannot eat, and sometimes on patients who refuse to eat as well. Tube feeding requires some education, as the patient and/or caregivers must be taught about nutritional balance and formulas which are acceptable for tube feeding. As a medical tool, tube feeding can greatly improve a patient's prognosis by ensuring that he or she receives the proper nutrition.

A nasogastric tube is run through a patient's nose and into his or her stomach.
A nasogastric tube is run through a patient's nose and into his or her stomach.

There are two basic types of feeding tubes. A nasogastric tube or NG-tube is run through the patient's nose and into his or her stomach. This sort of tube is usually used for temporary care, in which the patient only requires a feeding tube for a few days. NG-tubes can be very uncomfortable for patients. A gastric tube or G-tube is inserted through the abdominal wall with the help of an endoscope. This tube is designed for long-term use, and patients can wear their gastric tubes out and about with a high level of comfort when they are installed correctly.

A fiber-optic tube called an endoscope allows the surgeon to insert the feeding tube without creating a large incision.
A fiber-optic tube called an endoscope allows the surgeon to insert the feeding tube without creating a large incision.

When a gastric feeding tube is going to be inserted through the abdominal wall, the patient is sedated, as the procedure could otherwise be rather uncomfortable. The endoscope is guided down the esophagus and into the stomach; a bright light helps doctors see the endoscope through the patient's abdomen, while the endoscope provides a clear picture of the interior of the stomach. Then, a needle is pushed into the abdomen and used to guide the feeding tube into place.

The gauze around a surgical site should be changed frequently.
The gauze around a surgical site should be changed frequently.

For several days after the insertion of a gastric feeding tube, the patient may feel uncomfortable as the surgical site heals. It is also important to keep the site clean with changes of gauze and regular swabbing. Once the site heals, a caregiver must check the tube regularly to ensure that it is not being displaced; pressure on the tube can cause internal damage, as can partial removal of the gastric feeding tube.

To feed a patient through a gastric tube, a valve on the tube is opened to permit the flow of food formulas. A number of companies produce commercial formulas for use with feeding tubes; some doctors recommend that people use only commercial products as they are less likely to cause clogging, and they are formulated to provide complete nutrition. The patient's stomach digests the food normally, extracting the usable nutrition for the patient's body and passing the rest as waste.

A gastric tube is inserted through the abdomen into the stomach of patients who cannot eat normally, but a nasogastric tube is run through the nose.
A gastric tube is inserted through the abdomen into the stomach of patients who cannot eat normally, but a nasogastric tube is run through the nose.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon1000263

Can a feeding tube be used if you have achalasia?

anon269734

Is it OK for a G tube to swivel while in the stomach?

anon242225

Can you eat foods orally while the feeding tube is in the abdomen?

anon152282

how is the tube removed? The one in the stomach.

anon124141

can you eat foods orally while the feeding tube is in the abdomen?

anon116411

If you have a feeding tube, does it need to stay in all day or just at meal times?

anon70882

What do you need to do to remove a peg?

katmac

When a gastric feeding tube is inserted do you need a court order in order to remove it?

teetem

What is the procedure for removing a gastric feeding tube?

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