How to Change a Feeding Tube (PEG)

August 5, 2019
Feeding tubes are used for sending food directly to the stomach of patients who can't digest properly.

A percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy is a surgical procedure in which a feeding tube is placed in the stomach. It involves the creation of an artificial external opening into the stomach for either nutritional support or gastric decompression.

This intervention requires a non-invasive surgery that is done with endoscopy techniques. Also, it may be referred to as a “percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy” (PEG).

The introduction of a tube into the stomach allows for the safe feeding of people who can’t properly carry out their digestive functions due to health problems.

This is very common for use in people with dysphagia (typical of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). That is people with difficulty swallowing the bolus (a ball-like mixture of food and saliva that forms in the mouth during the process of chewing). It’s also common in those who’ve had a stroke or some other form of neurological damage.

If we compare a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy with a nasogastric tube (the one placed from the nose to the stomach), there are many advantages to a PEG. For one, there’s a significant reduction of possible complications.

In addition, personal safety increases by avoiding most of the digestive tract route. It also improves the psychological wellbeing of a patient, since a PEG is a lot more discreet. This is especially true in the case of young patients who are usually concerned about the aesthetic limitations of a nasogastric tube.

Changing a Feeding Tube

How do they place it?

A doctor removing a nose tube.
There are many great advantages to using a gastric tube compared to a nasogastric alternative that are both medical and aesthetic.

As we previously mentioned, this procedure is very simple:

  • First, an intravenous solution is administered to sedate a patient in the endoscopy room. Then, the doctors locate an appropriate region within the abdomen based on the results of the endoscopy and carefully disinfect it.
  • Next, the area is anesthetized locally and an abdominal wall incision made. This is a small cut, about 1/2 an inch. Therefore, recovery is quick and there’s little risk of side effects.
  • Then, doctors insert an angiocath into the stomach with an endoscope wire as a guide. (An angiocath is a kind of hollow needle capable of penetrating the stomach and reaching the inside of the organ.)
  • Finally, they remove the endoscope by dragging the wire to the patient’s mouth. There, they place the tube that will come out through the abdominal incision. For added safety, manufacturers include an inflatable balloon to keep the probe from moving. Thus, they can easily fasten and cover it.

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When to Replace a Feeding Tube

Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy is a fairly safe procedure. However, there may be complications that require its removal in patients who require prolonged enteral nutrition.

The most frequent complication of this procedure is an infection. It could be an infection from the gastrostomy hole in the abdominal wall or from the tube of the probe itself. In these cases, it’s mandatory to remove it and begin an antibiotic regimen to eradicate the infection. Otherwise, there’s a risk of septic shock.

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How to Replace a Feeding Tube

A doctor injecting liquid in a feeding tube.
Infection is the most common reason to replace a feeding tube.
  • First, sterilize and disinfect the area on which you’re going to work. Then, disconnect the feeding mechanism so that the probe is clean.
  • Next, make sure the probe balloon is properly in place and that it works. For this, introduce sterilized water into the valve to inflate it. If it swells correctly and there are no leaks, then that means it’s functional.
  • They, carefully clean the area around the hole in the patient’s stomach tube and make sure to deflate the balloon that holds the gastrostomy. As soon as the probe is no longer working and you’ve unattached it, you can remove it by pulling it firmly with one hand as you hold down the abdomen with the other.
  • Then, introduce the new probe through the same gastrostomy hole. Ideally, the tube will form a right angle to the abdomen to make it easier to place.
  • Finally, inflate the balloon until the new probe is in place and carefully pull it until it stops against the gastric wall.
  • Always disinfect at the end of this process to prevent future infections in the new probe.