If a person is having ongoing and serious trouble swallowing and can't get enough food or liquids by mouth, a feeding tube may be put directly into the stomach through the abdominal skin. This procedure is called a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG). The tube allows feeding directly into the gastrointestinal tract to occur by bypassing the mouth and esophagus (the “food tube” leading to the stomach).
Placing a feeding tube is a relatively simple surgery, but it is only recommended for complex conditions. Unfortunately, feeding tubes have not helped in every condition; PEG tubes have not lengthened life nor its quality in persons who are nearing death from terminal dementia or terminal cancer.
What Happens During the Feeding Tube Placement?
Your doctor will probably tell you not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours before getting a feeding tube put in.
When you arrive for the procedure, you will be asked to wear a hospital gown and remove eyeglasses and dentures, if you use either.
You will be given a pain reliever, sedative, and antibiotic through your vein (IV) before the procedure. You will also be given a local anesthetic (pain-relieving medication) at the site where the PEG tube is placed during the procedure.
During the procedure, the doctor will insert an endoscope through your mouth and into the stomach. Through a camera on the endoscope, the doctor will view the stomach lining to determine the PEG tube insertion site. A small incision will be made in the abdominal wall to insert the feeding tube.
The procedure takes between 30 to 45 minutes to complete.
What Happens After Getting a Feeding Tube?
Immediately following the placement of a feeding tube, you will be watched closely for any complications, such as an infection or bleeding.
The PEG tube will be secured to your abdomen with tape. You should expect to see some drainage around the PEG tube for the first 24 to 48 hours. A sterile gauze dressing will be placed around the incision. Your nurse will change the dressing as needed. Once the dressing has been removed and the area has healed, be sure to wash the area daily with soap and water.
A dietitian will teach you how to use and care for the PEG tube and you will be started on enteral tube feeding (feeding directly into the gastrointestinal tract). Your dietitian will help you choose a commercially prepared formula for the tube feeding.
For a couple of days, you may have minor soreness in your abdomen where the PEG tube was inserted. This will feel like a pulled muscle. You will receive medication to help relieve pain the first day after the procedure.
The amount of care needed for the PEG tube varies among patients. Generally, PEG tubes do not need to be replaced for several months, and may even function well for two or three years.
If you're having trouble with your feeding tube, please call your doctor or nurse.
Warning About Feeding Tubes
Call your doctor immediately if:
- The tube comes out.
- The tube becomes blocked.
- You are unable to take food through the tube.
- You have a lot of drainage around the tube.