Enteral feeding is, in essence, a means to provide nutrition via a tube placed through the nose, stomach, or the small intestine. It is incorporated in malnourished patients or those who are unable to eat of their own accord. This can include anyone with a facial or mouth defect, inability to swallow, surgery that affects eating, or an illness.
In order to keep nutrition at optimal levels, a highly nutritional liquid meal is delivered via a feeding tube. This is known as enteral nutrition or tube feeding. This includes all of the proper fat, water, vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, and proteins. During normal eating, the digestion process begins with the breakdown and chewing of food in the mouth. Enteral feedings skip this process by providing an already broken down, liquid meal that is delivered into the stomach or upper region of the small intestine (duodenum or jejunum). This highly nutritious meal is then taken through the rest of the gastrointestinal system like normal.
The registered nurses at National Nursing and Rehab can provide enteral feeding services, while training close friends and family members on the proper application and cleaning of the feeding tube. There are various types of enteral feeding tubes. The most common ones include:
- Nasogastric/Nasoenteral - A nasogastric tube is placed through the nasal passage, where it makes its way down the throat and into the stomach. The feeding bag can be attached directly to the tube, where the contents are emptied via gravity. Or, an automatic feeding pump system can be used to deliver a set amount of food.
- Gastrostomy/Jejunostomy - A gastrostomy or jejunostomy tube is placed directly into the stomach through an incision that has been made in the abdomen. Nutritional substances are fed via a tube and a feeding bag via gravity or an automatic system. Oral medications can also be delivered by a syringe.
It is important to clean the area surrounding the gastrostomy and the feeding tube before and after feedings. Your NNR nurse can walk you through the entire process. There are also various ways and types of feeding tubes that can be used for the process. Your nurse will go over these different options to find what works best for you. Your home care nurse will also check for proper positioning before feeding, as well as any signs of infection. It is extremely important to keep the surrounding area clean.
Having proper nutrition means a higher quality of life by improving or maintaining nutritional status. There are some risks with enteral feedings, but the overall benefits far outweigh the risks. The home health care nurses at National Nursing and Rehab will provide quality care and advice, while building relationships with patients and their families. Most importantly, we want our patients to be comfortable, and one way to achieve this is by providing health care services, like enteral feedings, inside the comforts of their own homes.