A gastrostomy better known as a feeding tube is called for when a person is unable to eat normally through their mouth. A minor surgical procedure inserts the feeding tube into the stomach. Liquid food is then poured straight into the stomach rather than by the mouth.
Reasons for Needing a Gastrostomy
There are several temporary and chronic medical reasons why a feeding tube must be used:
- Post-stroke – Many people who have had a stroke are not able to eat. Part of stroke rehabilitation is teaching them how to eat again. Once they can eat normally the feeding tube can be removed.
- Motor Neuron Disease – People with motor neuron diseases like advanced Parkinson’s disease have serious swallowing problems. Parkinson’s patients can aspirate food into their lungs and get a dangerous kind of pneumonia. For this reason, it is safer for them to be fed by a feeding tube.
- Dementia – Many people with advanced dementia stop eating and they must be fed with a food tube.
- Burns to the mouth, throat, face and lips make it impossible to eat and in this case a gastrostomy can be used until they are healed enough to eat on their own.
- Post-surgery – Certain kinds of mouth or throat surgery require that a person eat with a feeding tube.
- After Radiation Therapy for tumors of the neck and head
- Advanced cancer of the throat and tongue
- Gastric surgery or post-surgical drainage
- Cerebral palsy
- Terminal cancer
Minor Surgical Procedure to Insert a Feeding Tube
The minor surgical procedure for the insertion of a feeding tube is called percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG). This procedure usually takes about a half hour to 45 minutes under a local anesthetic.
The Gastrostomy Opening must be Kept Scrupulously Clean to Prevent Infections
The gastrostomy opening for the insertion of the feeding tube must be kept taped and scrupulously clean to prevent infections and complications. Complications can be nausea or pneumonia. Antibiotics may be given to prevent infection. The dressing needs to be changed frequently until the opening into the stomach has healed. Once it is healed it must be washed daily with soap and water. In most cases a feeding tube needs to be changed after several months. However, some feeding tubes can last for two to three years.
Liquids for the Feeding Tube
Special liquid formulas are used in a feeding tube. These are usually under the guidance of a registered dietitian.
Gastrostomy Care at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York
If your loved one with a gastrostomy is in need of short or long-term rehabilitation and skilled nursing care, you can be assured that your loved one will be in the best of hands at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York. There are also fantastic recreational programs and activities, entertainment, sing-a-longs, crafts, games, a Garden Club and more. To learn more about recreational activities at Van Duyn see our blog post from July 11, 2018.
Procedures like gastrostomy can be life-saving.