What is PEG feeding?
PEG (Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy) is a medical procedure carried out to insert a tube into your stomach. Insertion of a PEG tube means you can receive food, fluids, or medication directly into your stomach (also known as enteral feeding) instead of through your mouth.
Special nutritional products are used for PEG feeding. These are formulated to contain carbohydrates, protein, fats and micronutrients. Typically, you will have a nutritional assessment to determine your nutritional requirements because everyone’s needs differ. Your healthcare providers can offer information on how to care for your PEG tube and where you can go for more information and support.
When is a PEG feeding tube used?
You may need a PEG feeding tube if you have problems swallowing (dysphagia). A PEG tube is a more comfortable and discreet alternative (it can be hidden under your clothes) to a tube that goes from the nose to the stomach (nasogastric tube).
Causes of dysphagia include:
- brain injury – for example, caused by head injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, or Motor Neurone Disease
- head and neck cancer – there may be temporary problems with swallowing while you have treatment, or you might have a blockage in your oesophagus
- stroke – because of damage to the brain the muscles required to swallow may not work properly and food may end up in the lungs instead of the stomach.
If you have a condition where you are unable to obtain enough nutrients, your healthcare provider may consider using PEG feeding. These conditions include:
- loss of appetite
- cystic fibrosis
- eating disorders
- gastrointestinal disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- kidney failure.
How long does a PEG tube remain in the stomach?
Some people only have a PEG tube inserted for a short while. For example, people who are having treatment for head or neck cancer may have trouble swallowing and need some short-term help with feeding while they recover. For other people, the PEG tube is more permanent. You may need a permanent PEG tube if you have:
- a severe stroke
- traumatic head injuries causing neurological damage
- long-term neurological conditions – for example, Multiple Sclerosis or Motor Neurone Disease.
How is a PEG tube inserted?
Inserting a PEG tube takes approximately 30–45 minutes. Typically, the procedure is carried out by specialist doctors such as a gastroenterologist, a medical specialist who treats digestive system disorders. A trained nurse may also be present to assist the doctor during the procedure.
If you have any questions or would like more information about your procedure your doctor is best placed to answer your concerns.
The procedure may vary slightly depending on the healthcare provider. Steps include the doctor:
- giving a sedative for relaxation and a local anaesthetic for the throat, to help with swallowing of a long, thin tube with a camera (endoscope) – the camera helps guide the medical team
- applying a local anaesthetic to the skin over the stomach to numb the area
- making a small cut so a wire can be passed through into the stomach
- grabbing the wire with an instrument that has been inserted through the endoscope
- pulling the wire and endoscope out of the mouth
- attaching the PEG tube to the wire and manoeuvring it into place and out through the cut in your stomach
- securing the PEG tube, usually with a disc.
The doctor may give pain medication for any soreness and discomfort at the incision site.
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This article is sponsored by Independence Australia, a social enterprise that provides choices for people living with a disability or other personal need, enabling them to regain and retain their independence within a supportive community.