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Enteral Feeding and Associated Terms

Enteral feeding, also known as tube feeding, is the practice of delivering nutritional support via direct route of the stomach or intestine. There are many reasons that patients require nutritional support and can be short-term or long-term conditions.


Through the practice of enteral feeding, patients who are unable to get nutrition from oral intake, are supported by food being directed into their bodies. There are many different nutritional formulas available for use that target specific individual needs. Formulas are made for diabetics, dialysis patients, wound care needs, carbon dioxide reduction, metabolic stress, protein deficiencies, high-caloric needs, and fiber deficiencies.


There are also a variety of delivery products that are used depending upon the needs of the patients. Some patients may require temporary tube feeding for short-term recovery or enhanced needs. These patients are usually treated with nasogastric tubes. Patients who require long-term tube feeding generally use a percutaneous endoscopic gastrotomy tube, or PEG tube for short. Some long-term enteral feeding patients may choose or require a percutaneous endoscopic jejunostom tube, or PEJ tube.


Working together, nutritionists and physicians create solutions for patients requiring enteral feeding. Together they can create a nutrition plan that delivers the individualized nutritional support required on a patient-by-patient case basis.


Terms to Know:


Enteral Feeding – Commonly known as tube feeding, is the practice of delivering complete nutrition, while bypassing the mouth completely. Treatment involves a tube through the nose or directly into the abdominal cavity, with a syringe or powered pump assisting in moving food throughout the tube an into the stomach or intestinal areas.


Feeding Tube - When patients can’t eat on their own, can’t swallow, or require supplemental nutrition, a feeding tube is often used to provide those patients the nutrition that they need. Feeding tubes can be used for the temporary treatment of acute conditions or long-term in the case of more chronic disabilities. There are a variety of feeding tubes used in the medical industry, which are usually made out of polyurethane or silicone and they are available in different diameters. Feeding tubes are classified depending on their site of insertion and intended use. There are two different types of commonly used feeding tubes; which are those that are inserted through the nose (such as Nasogastric, Nasoduodenal, and Nasojejunal tubes) and those that are inserted through the abdomen (such as Gastrostomy, Gastrojejunostomy, and Jejunostomy tubes).


Duodenum – The first section of the small intestine connecting to the base of the stomach. The duodenum is the location where most chemical digestion takes place, and is the location for iron absorption in most mammals.


Jejunum – The middle section of the small intestine, running between the duodenum and the ileum. The jejunum is lined with villi that move vitamins and minerals into the blood stream.


Jejunostomy Tube - A jejunostomy tube (also known as a J-tube) is inserted through the patient’s skin and abdominal wall into a part of the small intestine called the jejunum. The tube is used for feeding and helps maintain the patient’s nutrition, hydration, and body weight. Like other types of feeding tubes, jejunostomy tubes are used with those who cannot get enough food and drink intake by mouth. Jejunostomy tubes are most commonly used with those who have a great deal of difficulty digesting their food, emptying their stomachs, and those who have had abdominal surgery and need time for anastomosis healing (need time for organs that have been surgically reconnected to heal).


Gastrostomy Tube - A gastrostomy tube (also known as a G-tube) is inserted through the patient’s abdomen directly into the stomach. A gastrostomy tube allows air and fluid to leave the stomach and provides a direct method for feeding and delivering medications to the patient. Gastrostomy tubes can be used temporarily or can be left in over long-term periods of time. Like most other types of feeding tubes, gastrostomy tubes are used with those who cannot get enough food and drink intake by mouth to stay healthy. Gastrostomy tubes are also commonly recommended for use with those who cannot swallow correctly and those who have a tendency to inhale (breathe in) food particles while they are eating. Gastrostomy tubes are also commonly used with babies who have birth defects of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach.