Swallowing problems after a stroke may make it hard for stroke survivors to eat or drink. Thus, they may not get enough nutrients. In this situation, feeding tubes can help. This article will help you know basic information about this feeding method.
Why is a feeding tube is needed?
Swallowing is a complicated activity that involves the coordination of several muscles so that foods and fluids can go down the right way into your stomach. After a stroke, these muscles may be affected, leading to swallowing problems. Swallowing can become dangerous. When you eat or drink something, it may go into your airway, causing chest infection, choking, pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, or weight loss.
Swallowing problems can cause difficulty in taking oral medications, making it hard for you to control your illness. And a stroke may recur.
Swallowing problems may be temporary or permanent. Among some stroke survivors, swallowing problems can return after a number of weeks or months.
In this situation, feeding tubes can be a useful solution, even a lifesaver.
How to apply the tube?
There are 3 different types of feeding tubes: nasogastric tube (NG tube), gastrostomy feeding tube (G-tube) and jejunostomy tube (J-tube).
Nasogastric tube (NG tube)
This feeding tube is minimally-invasive. It carries foods, water, or medicines to your stomach through the nose. This tube is used not only for stroke survivors with swallowing problems, but also people who need extra calories. A nurse will instruct you how to apply the tube and how to take good care of it. However, it is better if the nurse applies the tube for you.
First, he or she uses a special lubrication to lubricate the tube. If you have any problem with your nose, tell the nurse. Then, the nurse puts the tube into your nose to the back of your throat and asks you to swallow. This procedure may be uncomfortable. The nurse will check if the tube is in the correct position by using a syringe to drawn out some fluid. If everything is okay, you can be given foods, drinks, and medicines.
Because the tube is thin, it may be clogged. The nurse will show you how to flush it and replace a new one every few days.
Gastrostomy feeding tube (G-tube)
Gastrostomy feeding tube, also known as PEG, is a tube placed through the skin and the stomach wall. Foods and medicines can go directly through the stomach. The tube is thin, small and flexible.
A procedure is performed to apply the tube. During this procedure, doctors will use a special tube with a small camera at the end of it to look inside your body. The skin covering the left side of the abdomen is cleaned and numbed. Doctors will make a small incision then insert the feeding tube through it. Finally, the doctor will use stiches to close the stomach around the feeding tube.
Doctors will teach you how to care for the tube and skin, abnormal signs, and how to hide the tube.
Jejunostomy tube (J-tube)
Jejunostomy tube is put through the skin of the belly into the midsection of the small intestine. A J-tube is similar to a G-tube. However, medicines and foods go into your small intestine instead of your stomach. Doctor or nurse will instruct to care for the J-tube and the affected skin. Always keep the area clean and dry. If the tube is out, or if you notice any abnormal signs such as redness, odor, puss, pain, or swelling, call your doctor right away.
What types of foods can go down the feeding tube?
Feeding tubes help you eat and take medications more easily. However, all foods, drinks, or medicines should be in liquid form. This can help prevent clogging. Some types of liquid nutrients are available. You can ask the doctor about them.
Feeding tubes can be used to help people with trouble eating and swallowing. Getting to know how to apply it, what foods can go down the tube or how long will a patient has it can help you gain most from this feeding method.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: June 5, 2017 | Last Modified: June 5, 2017
Cowen ME, Simpson SL, Vettese TE. Survival Estimates for Patients with Abnormal Swallowing Studies. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 1997;12(2):88-94. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.1997.00012.x.
Swallowing problems after stroke fact sheet. https://strokefoundation.org.au/About-Stroke/Help-after-stroke/Stroke-resources-and-fact-sheets/Swallowing-problems-after-stroke-fact-sheet. Accessed April 30, 2017.
Nasogastric feeding tube. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000182.htm. Accessed April 30, 2017.
Feeding tube insertion – gastrostomy. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002937.htm. Accessed April 30, 2017.
Jejunostomy feeding tube. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000181.htm. Accessed April 30, 2017.