What Is A Gastrostomy?
A gastrostomy is an artificial, surgical opening that has been made in the abdomen and leads into the stomach. A gastrostomy is performed on those who have trouble eating due to a mental or physical handicap and they are unable to receive nutrients through the mouth. This can be due to a variety of factors such as:
- trouble swallowing
- babies that are born with birth defects of the esophagus, mouth, or stomach
- individuals that may breathe in food while eating
- those needing extra nutrition
A gastrostomy tube (commonly known as a feeding tube) is inserted through the incision and into the stomach. It allows nutrients to be delivered through the tube and directly into the digestive system. It is a small, hollow tube that allows liquid food to travel easily through the tube and into the stomach. They are extremely easy to use, and it is a much faster and more efficient method than hand feeding.
There are a variety of commercially prepared dietary supplements made for a feeding tube. With the help of your doctor, nurse, and dietician, a proper diet is created. There will be a line from the bag that can connect to the feeding tube. This line is placed through a pump that regulates the amount of nutritional supplements being delivered. However, feedings can also be completed and measured through a large feeding syringe.
Care of the Gastrostomy and Tube
Individuals who would otherwise perish because of a lack of nutrition are able to live much longer with the use of a gastrostomy. Along with food, a feeding tube may be used to give extra water and medications.
Regular cleanings around the tube and incision area are performed in a daily basis with mild soap and water. It is important to not let the end of the gastrostomy tube touch anything when removing a syringe or line from a bag. Before and after feedings or medications, the tube port can be wiped clean with a small alcohol pad. Both before and after the patient has been fed, the tube is flushed with water to eliminate any leftover food and/or debris.
Other areas that are monitored include checking the tube length (to ensure proper placement). If the tube is longer, the patient may be at risk of the gastrostomy tube coming out. If the measurement is too short, the feeding tube may be at risk of being drawn into the body. Also, the NNR home health care nurse will look for any tightness within the bumper piece.
These are just general care guidelines, and each individual may require a different method of cleaning and care. The gastrostomy care nurse will teach any additional cleaning techniques and care to family members and caregivers.