The symptoms of swallowing or feeding difficulties can be diverse. Frequent coughing accompanied by choking, voice changes and unexplained weight loss or pneumonia are often present in patients with dysphagia, or swallowing disorders. The inability to take in enough food and liquids by mouth can result in malnutrition and dehydration , as well as aspiration into the lungs.
Patients who need enteral feeding can receive their feedings through a variety of methods. Each patient has individualized needs, which can make one method more appropriate.
The naso-gastric route employs a thin feeding tube that is inserted through the nose into the stomach. The naso-gastric tube (NGT) is the most common way to accomplish enteral feeding, and it the easiest for the patient. Enteral feedings cane be completed very quickly and patients easily learn to do this at home. The (NGT) can remain in place long term, and a Lopez Valve can be utilized to allow access for medications and flushings.Unfortunately, the NG tube can be uncomfortable. The NGT can be easily pulled out which can interrupt feedings.
An oroesophageal tube in another temporary option for patients who need enteral feeding that can be placed before each feeding.
When patients need long-term or permanent enteral feeding, another alternative is the percutaneous gastostomy tube (G-tube). After a minor surgical procedure to make a connection between the stomach and the skin over the abdomen, tubing can be attached to an opening connected directly to the stomach. The connection can be performed with traditional surgical techniques, or using percutaneous endoscopy (PEG). This is more convenient for patients because the tubing is only in place for feedings.
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