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.
Constipation, the most common digestive complaint in the U.S. population, can make life miserable. Not only does constipation make you feel bloated, headachy, and irritable, but relieving constipation -- especially long-term or chronic constipation -- is time consuming and expensive. Each year in the U.S., chronic constipation leads to around 2.5 million doctor visits -- and medication costs of many hundreds of millions of dollars.
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.