A feeding tube is a medical device used to provide nutrition to patients who cannot obtain nutrition by swallowing. The state of being fed by a feeding tube is called enteral feeding or tube feeding. Placement may be temporary for the treatment of acute conditions or lifelong in the case of chronic disabilities. Tube feedings can be initiated for a wide variety of reasons. A feeding tube can be used for bolus or continual feedings. A nasogastric feeding tube, or “NG-tube”, is passed through the nares (nostrils), down the esophagus and into the stomach.
A gastric feeding tube (or “G-tube,” or “button”) is a tube inserted through a small incision in the abdomen into the stomach and is used for long-term enteral nutrition. The most common type is the percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube. It is placed endoscopically: the patient is sedated, and an endoscope is passed through the mouth and esophagus into the stomach. The position of the endoscope can be visualized on the outside of the patient’s abdomen because it contains a powerful light source. A needle is inserted through the abdomen, visualized within the stomach by the endoscope, and a suture passed through the needle is grasped by the endoscope and pulled up through the esophagus. The suture is then tied to the end of the PEG tube that will be external, and pulled back down through the esophagus, stomach, and out through the abdominal wall. The insertion takes about 20 minutes. The tube is kept within the stomach either by a balloon on its tip (which can be deflated) or by a retention dome which is wider than the tract of the tube.