Enteral nutrition is nourishment provided through a feeding tube. Our Nutrition Therapy Program provides enteral nutrition to cancer patients who cannot eat food as they normally would. It may help patients receive critical nourishment, avoid malnutrition and stay hydrated.
A feeding tube can be implanted in the following:
- Stomach: Known as a gastrostomy tube, G-tube or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube, this tube is inserted through the skin into the stomach during endoscopy or surgery. A doctor uses an endoscope to see inside the stomach and determine where the feeding tube should be placed. Then, he or she makes a small incision into the area and inserts the small, flexible feeding tube into the stomach. The doctor then stitches the stomach closed around the tube.
- Small intestine: Called a jejunostomy tube or J-tube, this tube is inserted through an incision made in the abdomen. It’s implanted in the jejunum, a portion of the small intestine.
- Nose: Known as a nasogastric tube, NG tube or nasoenteral tube, this type of tube is used when enteral nutrition is needed for a short period of time (i.e., less than four weeks). The long, flexible tube is inserted through the nose and passed down through the nasopharynx and esophagus into the stomach or small intestine. Sometimes the tube is passed into the first part of the small bowel, called the duodenum, if there is concern about reflux or the stomach emptying.
A special formula (a liquid mixture of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats) is administered through the tube either continuously or in doses of 1 to 2 cups, 3 to 6 times a day.
A feeding tube can be permanent or temporary. How long it is needed for depends on:
- How much time a patient has had to heal following a major surgery, such as a head and neck cancer procedure or an abdominal surgery for stomach or colon cancer
- How well the patient’s digestive tract functions
- Whether the patient is able to intake food orally
In our hospitals, patients meet with a dietitian and other care team members to learn about a feeding tube and the nutrition they’ll receive prior to surgery to implant a feeding tube. Patients are taught how to care for the feeding tube and how to administer tube feedings at home.