Published Date: Jan 2024


New advanced feeding tubes provide nutritional support for those who struggle to eat orally. They have evolved significantly over the years, improving quality of life for many patients. This article explores the different types of advanced feeding tubes available today and how they benefit those with complex medical needs.

Types of Feeding Tubes

There are several options when it comes to feeding tubes. The type chosen depends on a patient's individual needs and medical condition. Some of the most common include:

Nasogastric Tube

One of the simplest types is the nasogastric (NG) tube, which is inserted through the nose, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. NG tubes are short-term options used when oral intake is impaired for a limited period, like after surgery. They are easily placed but can be uncomfortable.

Gastrostomy Tube

For longer-term use, gastrostomy tubes are implanted directly into the abdomen to access the stomach. The most common is the percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube, where a tube is placed through the abdominal wall during an endoscopy. PEG tubes offer low risk of complications and do not require mouth or nose insertion.

Jejunostomy Tube

Like gastrostomy tubes, jejunostomy tubes can be surgically placed long-term but access the small intestine or jejunum instead of the stomach. This direct route is used when stomach emptying is impaired or an intestinal disease makes gastric feeding difficult.

Nasojejunal Tube

Similar to an NG tube but longer, a nasojejunal feeding tube is passed through the nose and down into the jejunum. It allows for intestinal feeding when the stomach cannot be used but is less permanent than surgical options.

Advantages of Advanced Tubes Over Oral Feeding

For many patients, advanced feeding tubes provide several benefits over oral intake alone:

  • Ensure Adequate Nutrition - Tubes can deliver precise amounts of liquidized formulas and meet strict caloric and nutrient needs when eating orally is not possible. This prevents undernutrition.
  • Bypass Gastrointestinal Issues - Conditions that impair swallowing, delay stomach emptying, cause nausea/vomiting, or involve the GI tract can make oral eating difficult. Tubes provide hydration and nourishment around problem areas.
  • Reduce Risk of Aspiration - For those with impaired swallowing mechanisms, tubes lower the chances of inhaling food/liquids into the lungs during feeding (aspiration pneumonia).
  • Manage Symptoms - For patients with issues like prolonged nausea or a high output ostomy, enteral feeding through a tube can help manage symptoms by providing steady nutrition.
  • Convenience - Advanced tubes allow continuous feeding around the clock, which may be more practical than multiple daily oral feedings. This improves independence.

Patient Populations That Benefit from Feeding Tubes

  • While short-term tubes are used routinely in hospitals, chronic conditions are the most common indications for long-term feeding tube support:
  • Neurological Disorders - Conditions causing dysphagia (swallowing issues) like stroke, ALS, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, or traumatic brain injury often require tubes.
  • Cancer - For patients undergoing aggressive chemotherapy/radiation or cancer treatment side effects, tubes maintain hydration and nutrition status.
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases - Diseases impairing digestion and absorption like Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, short bowel syndrome, or chronic pancreatitis may necessitate enteral nutrition.
  • Prematurity/Failure to Thrive - Very premature babies or infants who are not gaining weight appropriately are fed enterally via tubes.
  • Congenital Disorders - Birth defects affecting organs involved in swallowing and digestion frequently necessitate enteral tube feeding long-term.
  • Surgeries/Injuries - Major abdominal or head/neck surgeries sometimes require short-term tube feeding during healing. Trauma/injuries as well.

Managing Feeding Tubes

With education and support, most patients learn to independently care for feeding tubes at home. Some key aspects of management include:

  • Flushing the Tube - Keeps it patent using prescribed flushes before and after feedings.
  • Administering Feedings - Connecting feeding bags or syringes of liquid formula to give continuous or intermittent feedings by gravity or pump.
  • Dressing Changes - Replacing adhesive dressing or gauze covering the tube site as needed, checking for infection.
  • Checking Placement - Periodic X-rays confirm tube position has not shifted.
  • Scheduling Replacements - PEG tubes usually last 1-2 years before needing replacement due to wear.

With proper care, advanced feeding tubes can significantly improve quality of life for those who benefit by reliably meeting nutritional needs. They are truly life-sustaining medical inventions.


In summary, advanced feeding tubes have evolved to offer a variety of safe and effective enteral access options tailored to individual patient conditions and needs. From short-term NG tubes to long-term PEG and jejunal devices, they bridge the gap between total oral intake impairment and healthy nutrition, hydration, and medication administration. With proper education, most tube-fed patients thrive living independently at home. Advanced tubes demonstrate how far medical technology has come in ensuring dignified quality of life even in the face of significant eating difficulties.