What is Bolus Tube Feeding?

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  • Written By: Erica Stratton
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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Bolus tube feeding is a method of tube feeding characterized by giving a patient a certain amount of formula three or more times a day. This mimics regular eating patterns, and may be physically and psychologically easier for those who must rely on a feeding tube. Bolus tube feeding can be done with any kind of tube feeding apparatus.

Types of feeding tubes used for a bolus tube feeding include a temporary tube which is threaded through the nasal passages into the stomach, or semi-permanent tubes which lead directly through the abdominal wall to the stomach or intestines. No matter which style of feeding tube is used, the method used to introduce the formula into the tube is the same. Usually, the liquid food is drawn into a syringe and injected into the tube. The syringe can be attached to the tube and the formula poured into the barrel before the plunger is inserted, or the syringe can be filled with formula before attaching it to the tube for injection.


People who can benefit from tube feeding are usually either very old or have a medical condition. As they age, some people lose control over their swallowing muscles, and find the textures of certain foods difficult to deal with, which can lead to malnourishment. Those with medical conditions, such as a swollen throat, those who have had a stroke, or are suffering from extreme diarrhea may also have to switch to tube feeding in order to survive.

Bolus tube feeding is sometimes an intermediate stage in rehabilitating a patient. This method of tube feeding is also typically used by weakened patients or underweight ones who are having difficulty eating, but are not so weak they need to be fed continuously. Otherwise healthy patients who for whatever reason have difficulty swallowing but no digestive problems often find this type of tube feeding easier, because they do not have to haul an IV stand around with them for continuous feeding. Once a patient has regained weight and strength, tube feeding is often replaced by removing the feeding tube and going back to regular eating patterns.

The kind of nourishment given to each patient through bolus feeding varies by their needs. Often, a nutrient-rich formula is used. Other times, meats, vegetables, and other foods are liquidized and fed through the tube. Medicines can also be ground into powder and introduced through the feeding tube, chased with water or soda to wash them down.


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Post 3

@snickerish - I do not have hands on experiences but I am currently learning about tube feeding supplies and would love to share.

So far I have learned about the canisters or bags that actually hold the bolus amount, then there is an IV stand that holds the bags while the feed is occurring, buttons to cover the feeding tube whenever the child or adult is not being fed, an irrigation kit, and there are tube cleaning brushes.

And from what I am learning, there are even more accessories beyond this!

Post 2

@amysamp - I agree, not only is it a lot to take on responsibility wise but from what little I know about this tube feeding stuff, is there are also a lot of supplies that the teachers would have to keep track of.

I am trying to make a list of all the items needed with bolus tube feedings, would anyone like to contribute to the list based on their experiences with this type of feeding?

Post 1

I work at a school for students with severe physical and mental challenges as a speech language pathologist, and one of the aspects of this school had me very impressed with the teachers here at this school (on top of the fact they are changing diapers) was that they give tube feedings.

It is kind of crazy to think about this in a society where often times people resort to a lawsuit if something were to go wrong, and from what I know about bolus enteral feeding, there are quite a few things that could.

So I am impressed that teacher's take upon themselves this great responsibility instead of saying "it is not my job."

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