Feeding Tube Insertion (Gastrostomy)

Written by Tricia Kinman | Published on September 10, 2012
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, FACP on September 10, 2012

What Is a Feeding Tube?

A feeding tube is a tube that is inserted into your stomach through your abdomen. It is used to supply nutrition when you have trouble eating. It is also called percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEC), esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), and G-tube insertion.

This treatment is used for people who have trouble eating on their own. This can be because of a deformity of the mouth or esophagus, or because the person has trouble swallowing or keeping food down. This is also for individuals who can eat but aren’t getting enough nutrition or fluids orally. The feeding tube can also be used to administer medications.

Do I Need to Prepare for the Procedure?

This procedure is performed in a hospital or clinic. Before you begin, tell your doctor about any medications you are taking, including blood thinners such as coumadin (Warfarin) or Plavix. You will need to stop taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications one week before the procedure. Your doctor will also need to know if you have certain conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes, allergies, or heart and lung conditions. If you have diabetes, your oral medications or insulin may have to be adjusted the day of the procedure.

Gastrostomy is performed by using a flexible endoscopic tube with a camera attachment. You may be given anesthesia to make you more comfortable. This may make you drowsy following the procedure. Arrange before the procedure to have someone to drive you home.

This procedure requires you to fast. Typically, doctors ask that you abstain from eating eight hours prior to the procedure.

How Is The Endoscope Inserted?

During the procedure, you will be asked to remove any jewelry or dentures. You will then be given an anesthetic and something to relieve the pain. You will lie on your back and an endoscope (flexible tube with a camera attached) will be placed in your mouth and down your esophagus. The camera will help the doctor visualize your stomach lining to ensure that the feeding tube is positioned properly.

When the stomach is visible, the doctor will make a small incision in your abdomen. Next, the doctor will insert the feeding tube through the opening. He or she will secure the tube and place a sterile dressing around the site. There may be a little drainage. The whole procedure usually lasts under an hour.

The feeding tube can be temporary or permanent, depending on the reason for the feeding tube.

After the Procedure

Plan on resting after the procedure as the medicine may make you feel drowsy. The abdomen should heal in about five to seven days. After the tube is inserted, you may meet with a dietician who will show you how to use the tube for feeding. The dietician will also educate you on how to care for the tube.

Drainage around the tube is normal for a day or two, and a nurse will probably change your dressing on a regular basis. Feeling pain for a few days around the place where you were cut is normal. Make sure to keep the area dry and clean to avoid skin irritation or infection.

There are some risks associated with the procedure, but they are not common. Risks include trouble breathing and nausea from the medication. Excessive bleeding and infection are risks whenever you have a surgery, even with a minor procedure such as a feeding tube insertion.

When to Call the Doctor

Before you leave the hospital or clinic, make sure you know how to care for your feeding tube and when you need to contact a doctor. You should call your doctor if:

  • the tube comes out
  • you have trouble with the formula or if the tube becomes blocked
  • you notice excessive bleeding
  • you have drainage around the site after several days
  • you have signs and symptoms of an infection, including redness, swelling, or a fever
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Show Sources

  • Feeding tube - infants: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 19, 2012, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002937.htm
  • Feeding Tube Insertion. (2011). University of Maryland. Retrieved August 1, 2012, from http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/002937.htm
  • Feeding Tube Placement. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/percutaneous_endoscopic_gastrostomy_peg/hic_feeding_tube_placement.aspc

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