What Is Enteral Nutrition?

Tube feeding may be necessary for some patients

Tube feeding may be necessary for some patients.
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Enteral nutrition is also known as tube feeding. It’s used for people who are not able to take in foods by mouth, or can’t eat due to illness or injury. Enteral nutrition is acceptable for most any age person.

A feeding mixture is given through a tube directly into the stomach or small intestine. The formula contains all the necessary nutrients a person needs, including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Enteral nutrition can only be used for people who have a functioning digestive system. People who can't digest and absorb food might need parenteral nutrition.

Types of Enteral Nutrition Tubes

Different types of tubes are used for providing nutrition. Some tubes are placed through the nose and run down the esophagus to the stomach, or to the small intestine while other tubes go directly to the stomach or intestine through the abdominal wall.

Nasogastric tubes (or NG tubes) run from the nose to the stomach. No surgery is required because the tube is placed by hand, but it has to be held in place with a piece of tape. It can be uncomfortable because it can irritate your nose, lead to sinus problems and cause acid reflux.

Nasogastric tubes are best for short-term use, and they need to be changed every so often. The tube is also visible, so some people don't like the way it looks.

Nasojejunal or nasoduodenal tubes run from the nose to the intestine.

Placement is more complicated than a nasogastric tube, so it needs to be done in a hospital. 

Gastric tubes (or G-tubes) go through the abdominal wall directly into the stomach. It requires a surgical procedure called a gastrostomy. Gastric tubes are often used when enteral nutrition is needed for a long time, or even permanently.

Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy tubes (or PEG-tubes) are similar to G-tubes but are placed with an endoscopic procedure rather than a regular surgical procedure.

Gastrojejunal tubes (or G-J tubes) are similar to the gastric tube, but they run through the stomach and into the small intestine. 

Jejunostomy tubes (or J-tubes) run through the skin and the abdominal wall directly into the small intestine, bypassing the stomach altogether.

If tube feeding is necessary, your doctor can help you learn more about the different types of enteral nutrition tubes.

Sources:

American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. "What is Enteral Nutrition?" Accessed February 12, 2016. http://www.nutritioncare.org/wcontent.aspx?id=266.

Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation. "Different Types of Feeding Tubes." Accessed February 12, 2016. http://www.feedingtubeawareness.org/different-types-of-feeding-tubes.html.

Patient.co.uk. "Enteral Feeding." Accessed February 12, 2016. http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Enteral-Feeding.htm.

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