What is a Feeding Tube? A feeding tube is a tube through which you are able to receive nutritional support (food/liquid) into the stomach or intestinal tract while bypassing the mouth and throat. Any extensive surgery involving the mouth or throat will likely require the use of a feeding tube for at least a short time. During the post-operative recovery/healing process, it is important the surgical wounds are not exposed to food and liquid, which would interfere with healing and potentially lead to infection. If the swallowing mechanism is no functioning properly (there are a variety of reasons), a feeding tube may also be advised.
Can I still eat by mouth if I have a feeding tube? Yes! Having a feeding tube does not mean you cannot eat by mouth, although you should always follow the advice of your doctor and/or SLP staff regarding how much you should be using your tube. Your SLP staff will determine what foods and how much of them you can eat safely.
If I can eat by mouth, why do I need a feeding tube? There are many reasons a feeding tube is placed even when the patient is able to eat by mouth. In some cases, the feeding tube is placed in anticipation of needing it during the course of your cancer treatment. In many instances, the feeding tube can help supplement the patient’s overall nutrition if what is eaten by mouth may not be enough to adequately nourish the patient.
Why am I being changed from an NG tube to a G-tube? In most cases, an NG (nasogastric) tube is placed when the need for tube feeding is anticipated to be short-term. There are however, instances where the need for tube feeding appears as if will be more long-term in nature (>30 days). In these instances, placement of a g-tube is advised as this is more comfortable, can be left in place as long as necessary and is generally easier to maintain and less conspicuous. Once the g-tube is placed, the NG tube can be easily removed.
Can I shower/bathe with a G-tube or J-tube? In most cases, you can shower 48 hours after the tube placement. Bathing is usually ok after 10 days although you must be cleared by your surgeon before bathing.
When can my G-tube be removed? When considering G-tube removal, your doctors/SLP staff will first determine there will be no further cancer treatment and/or surgery planned that may require use of the feeding tube. Even if further treatment may be several weeks away, your G-tube will not be removed, although you may not need to use it except for daily flushing.
Once the SLP staff has determined that you are able to safely eat by mouth enough to maintain proper nutrition/hydration, you will be instructed on proper weaning from the feeding tube. You will be monitored to ensure you are maintaining your weight and hydration. After this is demonstrated, your feeding tube can be removed.
Updated Oct 18, 2013
Copyright 2011-2013 Katrina M. Jensen, M.A., CCC-SLP, PLLC