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.